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Foods that increase the risk of lung cancer by 49% – including non-smokers, according to study

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There are many factors that affect your chances of getting cancer, and it can be hard to find one that stands out when so many work together.

In one study, however, a general dietary approach was found to increase the incidence of lung cancer, with the association being highest among non-smokers.

Understanding what causes cancer is critical to developing effective defenses against it. Many factors, such as age and lifestyle, influence your risk of acquiring cancer. The fact that several of these risk factors interact further muddies the picture.

Many studies, however, account for characteristics that may influence results, such as participants’ smoking and body mass index (BMI).

The impact of carbohydrate consumption – glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load – on lung cancer risk in non-Hispanic whites was studied using this method.

The GI assesses the extent to which diets containing identical amounts of carbs raise blood sugar (glucose) levels.

Glycaemic load considers both the quantity of carbs consumed and the GI of those foods.

Foods with a high glycemic index cause blood sugar to jump dramatically, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Previous research into the relationship between glycaemic index and glycemic load and cancer risk has yielded mixed results.

The study, which was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, attempted to address this.

In an ongoing lung cancer study at M. D. Anderson, Xifeng Wu, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology, and her colleagues examined dietary glycaemic load and index scores in 1,905 newly diagnosed lung cancer patients and 2,413 healthy control subjects.

The glycaemic load and index scores of the participants were calculated using a modified version of the National Cancer Institute’s Health Habits and History Questionnaire.

Participants’ age, gender, education, smoking status, physical activity, family history of lung cancer, body mass index, total caloric intake, and history of emphysema, pneumonia, or hay fever were all taken into account.

What did the study authors find out?

A higher GI was “statistically significantly associated with lung cancer risk, with a 49 percent increased risk of lung cancer among participants with the highest daily glycaemic index compared with the lowest”.

The link was largest among never smokers, those with squamous cell malignancies, and those with less than 12 years of education, according to the researchers.

Glycemic index and glycemic load have been linked to cancer risk in other studies, however not lung cancer.

In a 2013 study, Oncologists compared the glycaemic index and glycaemic load of cancer patients to healthy controls.

The researchers discovered a link between a high glycemic index and an increased risk of prostate, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers, but not lung cancer.

What counts as high GI?

Carbohydrate foods with a high GI rating are those that are rapidly broken down by the body and result in a rapid rise in blood glucose.

High GI foods include:

  • Sugar and sugary foods
  • Sugary soft drinks
  • White bread
  • Potatoes
  • White rice.

Foods with a low or medium GI are broken down more slowly, resulting in a steady increase in blood sugar levels over time.

Fruit and vegetables, legumes, and wholegrain foods like porridge oats are among them.

Wholegrain meals, fruit, vegetables, beans, and lentils are examples of low GI foods that should be included in a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Source: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0765

Image Credit: Getty

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