Background: Dietary carbohydrates have been directly associated with gastric cancer risk and have been considered general indicators of a poor diet. However, elevated levels of glucose and insulin elicited by consumption of high amounts of refined carbohydrates may stimulate mitogenic and cancer-promoting insulin-like growth factors (IGF). Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL), which represent indirect measures of dietary insulin demand, were analysed to understand further the association between carbohydrates and gastric cancer.
Patients and methods: Data were derived from a hospital-based case-control study on gastric cancer, conducted in Italy between 1985 and 1997, including 769 cases with incident, histologically confirmed gastric cancer and 2081 controls admitted to the same hospital network as cases for acute, non-neoplastic diseases. All subjects were interviewed using a reproducible food frequency questionnaire.
Results: The multivariate odds ratios (OR) for subsequent quartiles of dietary GL were 1.44 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.11-1.87], 1.62 (95% CI 1.24-2.12) and 1.94 (95% CI 1.47-2.55). No consistent pattern of risk was seen with GI. The associations were consistent in different strata of age, education and body mass index, and were stronger in women.
Conclusions: This study supports the hypothesis of a direct association between GL and gastric cancer risk, thus providing an innovative interpretation, linked to excess circulating insulin and related IGFs, for the association between carbohydrates and risk of gastric cancer.