Bread, Pasta, and the Risk of Breast and Colon Cancer


Background: Carbohydrate foods with high glycemic and insulin-raising potential may influence cancer risk. This may occur though the insulin/growth-factor axis. Two sample carbohydrate foods of the Mediterranean diet, bread and pasta, have different glycemic and insulin-raising responses. Might they affect cancer risk differently?

The Study: Investigators from Toronto studied the association of bread and pasta with breast and colorectal cancer risk, using data from two Italian case-control studies. These studies included 2569 women with breast cancer, and 1953 men and women with colorectal cancer. Controls numbered 2588 and 4154, respectively (admitted to the same hospitals as cases for acute, non-cancer conditions).

Results: The odds ratios (ORs) of breast cancer for the highest versus the lowest quintile were 1.28 for breads, and 1.07 for  pasta. The association with breast was unchanged when comparing post menopause and overweight. The odds ratios of colorectal cancer in women for the highest versus the lowest quintile were 2.02 for bread and 1.37 for pasta. The associations remained significant only for breast in strata of menopausal women and overweight. No links were seen in men for wither bread or pasta.

What You Need to Know: These two cancer case-control studies showed stronger associations with bread (than pasta) among women, especially if the overweight. This suggests possible hormonal-related mechanisms. Suggestive, but not particularly actionable, except to say: Your mother was right: Everything in moderation. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Annals of Oncology 2013 Oct 22 [Epub ahead of print]

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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