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Carbohydrates and cancer: an overview of the epidemiological evidence

Abstract

Objective:

To assess the epidemiological evidence on dietary carbohydrates and the risk of developing cancer.

Method:

Review of published studies, concentrating on recent systematic reviews, meta-analyses and large prospective studies.

Conclusions:

Carbohydrates have not been intensively investigated in epidemiological studies of diet and cancer. There is a moderately large amount of data on the possible association between dietary fibre and the risk for colorectal cancer; the results of studies have varied and no firm conclusion can be drawn, but the available data suggest that high intakes of dietary fibre possibly reduce the risk for colorectal cancer. There are also limited data which suggest that high intakes of sucrose might increase the risk for colorectal cancer and that high intakes of lactose might increase the risk for ovarian cancer. For other components of carbohydrates and other types of cancer, the available data are too sparse to draw even tentative conclusions. Further research is needed on the possible associations of carbohydrates with cancer risk.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Dr Arthur Schatzkin, Professor Stephanie Smith-Warner, Professor Carolyn Summerbell, Dr Anne Tjonneland, Professor PA van den Brandt and Dr Martin Wiseman for their constructive comments. The authors are supported by Cancer Research UK.

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Correspondence to T J Key.

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Conflict of interest

During the preparation and peer-review of this paper in 2006, the authors and peer-reviewers declared the following interests.

Authors

Professor Timothy J Key: None declared.

Dr Elizabeth A Spencer: None declared.

Peer-reviewers

Dr Arthur Schatzkin: None declared.

Professor Stephanie Smith-Warner: None declared.

Professor Carolyn Summerbell: None declared.

Dr Anne Tjonneland: None declared.

Professor PA van den Brandt: None declared.

Dr Martin Wiseman: None declared.

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Key, T., Spencer, E. Carbohydrates and cancer: an overview of the epidemiological evidence. Eur J Clin Nutr 61, S112–S121 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602941

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Keywords

  • carbohydrates
  • sugar
  • dietary fibre
  • cancer
  • review

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