Background: The glycemic potential of a diet is associated with chronically elevated insulin concentrations, which may augment breast cancer (BC) risk by stimulating insulin receptor or by affecting insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I)-mediated mitogenesis. It is unclear whether this effect differs by BC phenotype.
Objective: The objective was to investigate the relation between glycemic index (GI), glycemic load (GL), and total carbohydrate intake with BC by using data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
Design: We identified 11,576 women with invasive BC among 334,849 EPIC women aged 34-66 y (5th to 95th percentiles) at baseline over a median follow-up of 11.5 y. Dietary GI and GL were calculated from country-specific dietary questionnaires. We used multivariable Cox proportional hazards models to quantify the association between GI, GL, and carbohydrate intake and BC risk. BC tumors were classified by receptor status.
Results: Overall GI, GL, and carbohydrates were not related to BC. Among postmenopausal women, GL and carbohydate intake were significantly associated with an increased risk of estrogen receptor-negative (ER(-)) BC when extreme quintiles (Q) were compared [multivariable HR(Q5-Q1) (95% CI) = 1.36 (1.02, 1.82; P-trend = 0.010) and HR(Q5-Q1) = 1.41 (1.05, 1.89; P-trend = 0.009), respectively]. Further stratification by progesterone receptor (PR) status showed slightly stronger associations with ER(-)/PR(-) BC [HR(Q5-Q1) (95% CI) = 1.48 (1.07, 2.05; P-trend = 0.010) for GL and HR(Q5-Q1) = 1.62 (1.15, 2.30; P-trend = 0.005) for carbohydrates]. No significant association with ER-positive BC was observed.
Conclusion: Our results indicate that a diet with a high GL and carbohydrate intake is positively associated with an increased risk of developing ER(-) and ER(-)/PR(-) BC among postmenopausal women.