White Bread, White Rice May Raise Risk of Lung Cancer

Medically Reviewed

Eating a lot of high-glycemic-index foods, such as white bread and white rice, may increase the risk of lung cancer in non-Hispanic whites—even those who have never smoked.

The glycemic index classifies how rapidly carbohydrate-containing foods elevate blood sugar levels following a meal.

Researchers from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston selected 1,905 non-Hispanic white patients who were newly diagnosed with lung cancer and had been treated only with surgery, and 2,413 healthy individuals.

They conducted in-person interviews to determine the participants’ health histories and dietary behavior.

Participants who consumed the most high-glycemic-index foods daily had a 49 percent greater risk of developing lung cancer than those who consumed the least. Among never-smokers, those who consumed the most high-glycemic-index foods were more than twice as likely to develop lung cancer.

One possible explanation is that a diet high in high-glycemic-index foods may lead to increased levels of a protein called insulin-like growth factor. High levels of this protein have been linked to an increased risk of several cancers, including lung cancer.

Those findings, published in March 2016, don’t prove that consuming lots of high-high-glycemic foods causes lung cancer. Nevertheless, a healthy diet involves limiting high-glycemic foods. Replace them with low-high-glycemic foods like whole-wheat bread, rolled or steel-cut oatmeal, and brown rice.

Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention