Background: Dietary glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) affect circulating insulin concentrations. Elevated circulating insulin concentrations can increase insulin-like growth factor-1, and both of these hormones may have growth-promoting effects within the colorectum. Methods: We examined associations of GI and GL with colorectal cancer (CRC) among participants in the Iowa Women's Health Study (n = 35,197; ages 55-69 years at baseline in 1986). Over 15 years of follow-up, we identified 757 cases of colon cancer and 209 cases of rectal cancer (954 CRC cases). Results: Overall, neither GI nor GL were significantly associated with incident CRC. However, among obese women (baseline body mass index ≥30 kg/m2) CRC incidence was increased in the highest versus lowest quintiles of GI (relative risk, 1.66; 95% confidence intervals, 1.13-2.43; P for trend = 0.02) and GL (relative risk, 1.79; 95% confidence intervals, 1.19-2.70; P for trend < 0.01). This pattern of increased risk for obese women with high GI or GL tended to hold for both colon cancer and rectal cancer, and for nondiabetic women as well. No statistically significant associations were observed between GI or GL and CRC among subjects whose baseline body mass index was <30 kg/m2. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that high GI or GL are not major CRC risk factors among older women in general, but may increase CRC risk among women who are obese.
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