Organic food is that which farmers and manufacturers producevwithout using synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, or pesticides.
JAMA Internal Medicine
Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer RiskFindings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study
Julia Baudry, PhD1; Karen E. Assmann, PhD1; Mathilde Touvier, PhD1; et alBenjamin Allès, PhD1; Louise Seconda, MSc1; Paule Latino-Martel, PhD1; Khaled Ezzedine, MD, PhD1,2; Pilar Galan, MD, PhD1; Serge Hercberg, MD, PhD1,3; Denis Lairon, PhD4; Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot, PhD1Author AffiliationsArticle InformationJAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(12):1597-1606. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4357
Question What is the association between an organic food–based diet (ie, a diet less likely to contain pesticide residues) and cancer risk?
Findings In a population-based cohort study of 68 946 French adults, a significant reduction in the risk of cancer was observed among high consumers of organic food.
Meaning A higher frequency of organic food consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cancer; if the findings are confirmed, research investigating the underlying factors involved with this association is needed to implement adapted and targeted public health measures for cancer prevention.Abstract
Importance Although organic foods are less likely to contain pesticide residues than conventional foods, few studies have examined the association of organic food consumption with cancer risk.
Objective To prospectively investigate the association between organic food consumption and the risk of cancer in a large cohort of French adults.
Design, Setting, and Participants In this population-based prospective cohort study among French adult volunteers, data were included from participants with available information on organic food consumption frequency and dietary intake. For 16 products, participants reported their consumption frequency of labeled organic foods (never, occasionally, or most of the time). An organic food score was then computed (range, 0-32 points). The follow-up dates were May 10, 2009, to November 30, 2016.
Main Outcomes and Measures This study estimated the risk of cancer in association with the organic food score (modeled as quartiles) using Cox proportional hazards regression models adjusted for potential cancer risk factors.
Results Among 68 946 participants (78.0% female; mean [SD] age at baseline, 44.2 [14.5] years), 1340 first incident cancer cases were identified during follow-up, with the most prevalent being 459 breast cancers, 180 prostate cancers, 135 skin cancers, 99 colorectal cancers, 47 non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and 15 other lymphomas. High organic food scores were inversely associated with the overall risk of cancer (hazard ratio for quartile 4 vs quartile 1, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.63-0.88; P for trend = .001; absolute risk reduction, 0.6%; hazard ratio for a 5-point increase, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.88-0.96).
Conclusions and Relevance A higher frequency of organic food consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cancer. If these findings are confirmed, further research is necessary to determine the underlying factors involved in this association.
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The truth about organic food and cancer
Your wallet might have more of an effect than your shopping cart.
By Sara Chodosh
October 24, 2018
What did the study actually say?
This is a classic case of association: French researchers asked 68,946 adults, also all French, to report how frequently they consumed organic food. They also asked everyone to report whether they had cancer, and at a five-year follow-up, asked again about any cancer diagnoses. On top of that data, the researchers collected information like whether the participant smoked, how much money they earned, how heavily they drank, and how much they exercised. Based on all that, they found a correlation between a lowered overall cancer risk and eating more organic food.
Where does the study fall short?
Potential confounding factors—like high income or physical activity level—are especially important when studying the health benefits of organic food, because eating organic is associated with lots of things that also help you live a longer, healthier life. In other words, people who regularly eat organic food tend to have other lifestyle factors and habits that could easily lower cancer risk as well.
Why might cancer be linked to non-organic food?
Okay, so we’ve outlined all the ways in which this study does not mean that eating organic will keep you free from cancer. But if there is some connection, what causes the increase in risk? The main culprit researchers suspect here is pesticides.
Should I be eating more organic produce?
We’ll defer to the JAMA editorial to summarize this one: “current evidence indicates that the benefits of consuming conventionally grown produce are likely to outweigh the possible risks from pesticide exposure.”
For the whole article: