Increased risk of early-stage breast cancer related to consumption of sweet foods among women less than age 45 in the United States

Cancer Causes Control. 2002 Dec;13(10):937-46. doi: 10.1023/a:1021919416101.


Objectives: To evaluate the associations of dietary macronutrients, food groups, and eating patterns with risk of breast cancer in a population-based case-control study.

Methods: In this study among women 20-44 years of age, 568 cases with breast cancer and 1451 population-based controls were included. They completed a detailed in-person interview, a self-administered food-frequency questionnaire and were measured for anthropometric indices. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) of breast cancer, adjusted for age, study site, race, education, alcohol consumption, oral contraceptive usage, smoking status, and body mass index.

Results: There was no association between breast cancer risk and intake of calories, macronutrients, or types of fat. Risk of breast cancer was unrelated to intakes of a variety of food groups, including red meats, dairy, high-fat snacks and desserts, or foods high in animal fat. Increased risk was observed for high intake of a food group composed of sweet items, particularly sodas and desserts. Risk increased linearly with percent of calories from sweets and frequency of sweets intake. Consumption of sweets 9.8 or more times per week compared with <2.8 times per week was associated with an adjusted OR of 1.32 (95% CI = 1.0-1.8). This association did not appear to be due to the high-fat foods or carbonated beverages that comprised the food group. Compared with women reporting one or two meals and snacks per day, reduced risks were noted for women reporting six or more (OR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.4-1.1).

Conclusions: These data suggest a modest relationship between intakes of sweet items with risk of in-situ and localized breast cancer in young women. This relation is consistent with the hypothesized link of high insulin exposure and risk of breast cancer. There was some suggestion that women who ate many times during the day were at reduced risk of disease, which is also consistent with an insulin-related mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Carbohydrates / adverse effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Carbohydrates