Organic Foods May Lower Cancer Risk

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According to a new population-based cohort study of 68, 946 French adults, eating organic foods might reduce your risk of cancer.

The results of this study may not surprise many of us but the association between an organic food–based diet (i.e., a diet less likely to contain pesticide residues) and cancer risk has been hard to affirm, mostly because it is so challenging to research. This study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) however did find a significant reduction in the risk of cancer among high consumers of organic food. This means, eating a larger amount of organic food versus conventionally grown food, could reduce your overall cancer risk by as much as 25%. Organic foods were most strongly associated with a reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The results were adjusted for many important variables that often confuse the findings – things like sociodemographics, lifestyles, and dietary patterns.

How do we explain the findings of this study? Pesticides – the evidence for the connection between cancer risk and synthetic pesticides is growing. Higher levels of urinary pesticides have been associated with the intake of pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables. Many commonly used pesticides (malathion, diazinon, tetrachlorvinhos and parathion among many others) are recognized as carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. These chemicals may cause DNA damage, disruptions in cellular energy pathways and even mimic estrogen function.

For our patients with cancer at the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre, we encourage a whole foods diet with as much organically grown and raised food as possible. We also understand that while organic food may be important to reduce the risk of specific cancers, the high price is an obstacle. If this is the case for you, check out The Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen™ and Dirty Dozen™  list that helps prioritize what produce is the most heavily sprayed with pesticides compared to those sprayed the least.

Research in support of organic over conventional foods is mounting. The takeaway message from this article is that eating organic foods could be a part of your preventive strategy against cancer and its recurrence.