Sugars in diet and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study

Nataša Tasevska, Li Jiao, Amanda J. Cross, Victor Kipnis, Amy F. Subar, Albert Hollenbeck, Arthur Schatzkin, Nancy Potischman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Prospective epidemiologic data on the effects of different types of dietary sugars on cancer incidence have been limited. In this report, we investigated the association of total sugars, sucrose, fructose, added sugars, added sucrose and added fructose in the diet with risk of 24 malignancies. Participants (n = 435,674) aged 50-71 years from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study were followed for 7.2 years. The intake of individual sugars was assessed using a 124-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Cox proportional hazards regression was used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) in multivariable models adjusted for confounding factors pertinent to individual cancers. We identified 29,099 cancer cases in men and 13,355 cases in women. In gender-combined analyses, added sugars were positively associated with risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma (HR Q5 vs. Q1: 1.62, 95% CI: 1.07-2.45; p trend = 0.01), added fructose was associated with risk of small intestine cancer (HR Q5 vs. Q1: 2.20, 95% CI: 1.16-4.16; p trend = 0.009) and all investigated sugars were associated with increased risk of pleural cancer. In women, all investigated sugars were inversely associated with ovarian cancer. We found no association between dietary sugars and risk of colorectal or any other major cancer. Measurement error in FFQ-reported dietary sugars may have limited our ability to obtain more conclusive findings. Statistically significant associations observed for the rare cancers are of interest and warrant further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-169
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • AARP study
  • added sugars
  • cancer
  • diet
  • sugars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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