Can eating organic food lower your cancer risk?
CAUTION is being urged about the findings of a French study that found those who ate more organic produce, dairy, meat and other products had 25 per cent fewer cancer diagnoses over all, especially lymphoma and breast cancer.
People who buy organic food are usually convinced it’s better for their health, and they’re willing to pay dearly for it. But until now, evidence of the benefits of eating organic has been lacking.
Now a new French study that followed 70,000 adults, most of them women, for five years has reported that the most frequent consumers of organic food had 25 per cent fewer cancers overall than those who never ate organic.
Those who ate the most organic fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and other foods had a particularly steep drop in the incidence of lymphomas, and a significant reduction in postmenopausal breast cancers.
The study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, was paid for entirely by public and government funds.
Medical experts say it is true the authors have identified an association, but this is only an observational paper (as the authors themselves acknowledge) and this does not demonstrate that organics reduce the risk of cancer.
They say we can’t be certain that the association is due to organic food consumption – it could be other healthy lifestyle factors that were not accounted for in the analysis, because people who make a point of eating organic food may well take steps to be healthy in many other ways.
Although the authors tried to account for a very wide range of variables that might be associated with both organic food consumption and cancer, it is still possible that these could explain the results.
The study does not find a direct link between pesticide consumption in food and cancer risk, and the authors do not make that claim.
The authors do hypothesise that the mechanism by which eating organic foods reduces cancer risk is through reduced levels of pesticide residues in organic food-stuffs, but there is no evidence for that provided in this paper.
The study concludes that “promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer”.
The experts say this is speculative and not entirely justified because they have not demonstrated a causal link.
The paper is accompanied by a commentary which describes this study very well. The commentary gives a detailed account of the limitations of the study and the conclusions that can be drawn from it.
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