BACKGROUND: Several reports have suggested that conditions associated with hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, such as diets high in carbohydrates, may influence the risk of pancreatic cancer, although results from prior studies have been mixed. METHODS: We utilized data from the population-based women's health initiative (WHI) cohort to determine whether dietary factors that are associated with increased postprandial blood glucose levels are also associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. The WHI included 161,809 postmenopausal women of ages 50-79, in which 332 cases of pancreatic cancer were identified over a median of 8 years of follow-up; 287 of these cases met the criteria for analysis. A validated 122-item food frequency questionnaire was used to estimate dietary glycemic load (GL), glycemic index (GI), total and available carbohydrates, fructose and sucrose. Baseline questionnaires and physical exams provided information on demographic, medical, lifestyle, and anthropometric characteristics. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association between the exposures of interest and pancreatic cancer risk, with adjustment for potential confounders. RESULTS: Dietary GL, GI, carbohydrates, fructose, and sucrose were not associated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer. The multivariable adjusted HR for the highest vs. the lowest quartile of GL was 0.80 (95% CI = 0.55-1.15, trend p = 0.31) and 1.13 (95% CI = 0.78-1.63, trend p = 0.94) for GI. The results remained negative when individuals with a history of diabetes were excluded. CONCLUSIONS: Our results do not support the hypothesis that dietary intake of carbohydrates is associated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer.