Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load and Mammographic Breast Density: The EPIC Florence Longitudinal Study

Giovanna Masala, Melania Assedi, Benedetta Bendinelli, Ilaria Ermini, Daniela Occhini, Sabina Sieri, Furio Brighenti, Marco Rossellil de Turco, Daniela Ambrogetti, Domenico Palli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A few studies have evaluated the association between diet and mammographic breast density (MBD) and results are inconsistent. MBD, a well-recognized risk factor for breast cancer, has been proposed as a marker of cumulative exposure to hormones and growth factors. Diets with a high glycemic index (GI) or glycemic load (GL) may increase breast cancer risk, via an effect on the insulin-like growth factor axis. We have investigated the association between carbohydrate intake, GI, GL and MBD in a prospective study. We identified a large series of women, in the frame of the EPIC-Florence cohort, with a mammogram taken five years after enrolment, when detailed information on dietary and lifestyle habits and anthropometric measurements had been collected. Mammograms have been retrieved (1,668, 83%) and MBD assessed according to Wolfe's classification. We compared women with high MBD (P2+DY Wolfe's categories) with those with low MBD (N1+P1) through logistic models adjusted for age, education, body mass index, menopause, number of children, breast feeding, physical activity, non-alcohol energy, fibers, saturated fat and alcohol. A direct association between GL and high MBD emerged in the highest quintile of intake in comparison with the lowest quintile (OR = 1.73, 95%CI 1.13-2.67, p for trend = 0.048) while no association with glycemic index was evident. These results were confirmed after exclusion of women reporting to be on a diet or affected with diabetes, and when Hormone Replacement Therapy at the date of mammographic examination used to assess MBD was considered. The effect was particularly evident among leaner women, although no interaction was found. A positive association was suggested for increasing simple sugar and total carbohydrates intakes limited to the highest quintiles. In this Italian population we observed an association between glycemic load, total and rapidly absorbed carbohydrates and high MBD. These novel results warrant further investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere70943
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 7 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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