Consuming a diet with a high glycemic index, a marker of carbohydrate intake, was independently associated with an increased risk for developing lung cancer in non-Hispanic white persons, a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention has shown.1,2

“We observed a 49% increased risk of lung cancer among subjects with the highest daily glycemic index compared to those with the lowest daily glycemic index,” said Xifeng Wu, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

For the study, researchers assessed the glycemic index and glycemic load of 1905 patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer at MD Anderson Cancer Center and 2413 healthy controls who received care at Kelsey-Seybold Clinics, also in Houston.

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“The associations were more pronounced among subjects who were never smokers, diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, or had less than 12 years of education,” Wu noted.

Patients who had never smoked with the highest daily glycemic index were 125% more likely to develop lung cancer than never smokers with lowest daily glycemic index. Among those with less than 12 years of education, patients with the highest glycemic index had a 75% higher risk of the disease.

“The results from this study suggest that, besides maintaining healthy lifestyles, such as avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, and being physically active, reducing the consumption of foods and beverages with high glycemic index may serve as a means to lower the risk of lung cancer,” Wu explained.

Foods with high glycemix index include white bread, bagels, pretzels, popcorn, macaroni and cheese from a mix, instant oatmeal, melons, and pineapple.


1. Melkonian SC, Daniel CR, Ye Y, et al. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and lung cancer risk in non-Hispanic whites. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016;25(3):532-539.

2. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dietary glycemic index linked to lung cancer risk in select populations [news release]. EurekAlert! Web site. uotm-dgi030316.php. Published March 4, 2016. Accessed March 9, 2016.