Background: In a few animal experiments, aspartame has been linked to hematopoietic and brain cancers. Most animal studies have found no increase in the risk of these or other cancers. Data on humans are sparse for either cancer. Concern lingers regarding this widely used artificial sweetener.
Objective: We investigated prospectively whether aspartame consumption is associated with the risk of hematopoietic cancers or gliomas (malignant brain cancer).
Methods: We examined 285,079 men and 188,905 women ages 50 to 71 years in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study cohort. Daily aspartame intake was derived from responses to a baseline self-administered food frequency questionnaire that queried consumption of four aspartame-containing beverages (soda, fruit drinks, sweetened iced tea, and aspartame added to hot coffee and tea) during the past year. Histologically confirmed incident cancers were identified from eight state cancer registries. Multivariable-adjusted relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated using Cox proportional hazards regression that adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, body mass index, and history of diabetes.
Results: During over 5 years of follow-up (1995-2000), 1,888 hematopoietic cancers and 315 malignant gliomas were ascertained. Higher levels of aspartame intake were not associated with the risk of overall hematopoietic cancer (RR for >/=600 mg/d, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.76-1.27), glioma (RR for >/=400 mg/d, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.46-1.15; P for inverse linear trend = 0.05), or their subtypes in men and women.
Conclusions: Our findings do not support the hypothesis that aspartame increases hematopoietic or brain cancer risk.