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Nutr Rev. 2017 Jun 1;75(6):420-441. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nux010.

Carbohydrates, glycemic index, glycemic load, and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.

Author information

Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom.
Junior Research Group Systematic Reviews, Institute for Biometrics and Epidemiology, German Diabetes Center, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Medicine, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom.
Bjørknes University College, Oslo, Norway.



The investigation of dose-response associations between carbohydrate intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of breast cancer stratified by menopausal status, hormone receptor status, and body mass index (BMI) remains inconclusive.


A systematic review and dose-response meta-analyses was conducted to investigate these associations.

Data Sources:

As part of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research Continuous Update Project, PubMed was searched up to May 2015 for relevant studies on these associations.

Study Selection:

Prospective studies reporting associations between carbohydrate intake, glycemic index, or glycemic load and breast cancer risk were included.

Data Extraction:

Two investigators independently extracted data from included studies.


Random-effects models were used to summarize relative risks (RRs) and 95%CIs. Heterogeneity between subgroups, including menopausal status, hormone receptor status, and BMI was explored using meta-regression. Nineteen publications were included. The summary RRs (95%CIs) for breast cancer were 1.04 (1.00-1.07) per 10 units/d for glycemic index, 1.01 (0.98-1.04) per 50 units/d for glycemic load, and 1.00 (0.96-1.05) per 50 g/d for carbohydrate intake. For glycemic index, the association appeared slightly stronger among postmenopausal women (summary RR per 10 units/d, 1.06; 95%CI, 1.02-1.10) than among premenopausal women, though the difference was not statistically significant (Pheterogeneity = 0.15). Glycemic load and carbohydrate intake were positively associated with breast cancer among postmenopausal women with estrogen-negative tumors (summary RR for glycemic load, 1.28; 95%CI, 1.08-1.52; and summary RR for carbohydrates, 1.13; 95%CI, 1.02-1.25). No differences in BMI were detected.


Menopausal and hormone receptor status, but not BMI, might be potential influencing factors for the associations between carbohydrate intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and breast cancer.


breast cancer; carbohydrates; glycemic index; glycemic load; meta-analysis; systematic review

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