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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Jan;13(1):65-70.

Dietary glycemic load and breast cancer risk in the Women's Health Study.

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Department of Epidemiology, UCLA School of Public Health, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, USA.


A diet with a high glycemic load (GL) may contribute to a metabolic environment that enhances tumorigenesis. Little is known, however, about whether high glycemic diets increase breast cancer risk in women. We examined the associations between baseline measurements of dietary GL and overall glycemic index (GI) and subsequent breast cancer in a cohort of 39,876 women, ages 45 years or older, participating in the Women's Health Study. During a mean of 6.8 years of follow-up there were 946 confirmed cases of breast cancer. We found no association between dietary GL [multivariable-adjusted relative risk (RR), 1.01; confidence interval (CI), 0.76-1.35, comparing extreme quintiles; P for trend = 0.96] or overall GI (corresponding RR, 1.03; CI, 0.84-1.28; P for trend = 0.66) and breast cancer risk in the cohort as a whole. Exploratory analyses stratified by baseline measurements of menopausal status, physical activity, smoking history, alcohol use, and history of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, or hypercholesterolemia showed no significant associations, except in the subgroup of women who were premenopausal and reported low levels of physical activity (GL multivariable-adjusted RR, 2.35; CI, 1.03-5.37; P for trend = 0.07; GI multivariable-adjusted RR, 1.56; CI, 0.88-2.78; P for trend = 0.02, comparing extreme quintiles). Although we did not find evidence that a high glycemic diet increases overall breast cancer risk, the increase in risk in premenopausal women with low levels of physical activity suggests the possibility that the effects of a high glycemic diet may be modified by lifestyle and hormonal factors. Prospective studies of a larger sample size and longer duration are warranted to confirm our findings.

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