Going organic might actually help curb cancer risk, study finds

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A new study suggests that eating organic food could protect people from cancer. A 25% decrease in cancer risk across all types was observed among "regular" consumers of organic foods compared to more casual consumers. Now researchers at Paris University have studied 69,000 people who were questioned about their diet and followed for an average of five years, during which 1,340 of them developed cancer. They ate more fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes, and less processed meat, other meat, poultry and milk - the kinds of dietary patterns the Cancer Council recommends to reduce the risk of disease.

There was also a reduced risk for lymphomas, plus prostate, skin and colorectal cancers for people who eat mostly organic.

The last category was all lymphomas: People who ate organic food most often were 76 percent less likely to get cancers of the lymph system than people who ate organic foods the least. The most common was breast cancer which was diagnosed in 459 volunteers. However, there was no reduction in overall cancer risk, and the risk of breast cancer was slightly higher among women who ate organic food routinely than it was for women who didn't eat it at all. That association held true even after accounting for factors like smoking, exercise, and socioeconomic status - all of which are known to affect cancer risk.

The authors concluded: "Although our findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer".

To arrive at the findings, Baudry and her colleagues analysed data from almost 69,000 people taking part in an ongoing French study of the associations between nutrition and health. He co-authored a commentary published with the study.

"Further research is required to identify which specific factors are responsible for potential protective effects of organic food consumption on cancer risk", they wrote Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. According to official data, more than 75% of the participants were females in their mid-forties. "Organic food intake is notoriously hard to assess, and its self-report is highly susceptible to confounding by positive health behaviors and socioeconomic factors". "That is because deciding to eat organic foods or not is a decision that has very strong social and economic determinants. Especially for those items, choosing organics is better for health as well as for the environment".

"The main obstacle to purchasing organic food are high prices", say the authors of the study.

It's true that previous research, including one of Chavarro's own studies, have shown a correlation between organic food consumption and pesticide levels in urine, so the assumption is not incorrect.

A link was found between a person's total cell number and their likelihood of contracting cancer in 18 of the 23 cancers tested for, the study says.

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