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Can Eating Organic Reduce Your Cancer Risk?

October 24, 2018

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By Kim Polacek

Mom always told you to eat your veggies, but now she may want to add the word “organic” to that sentence. A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests those who frequently eat organic foods may have a lower risk of developing cancer.

Researchers in France asked about the diets of nearly 69,000 adults, mostly women, and then followed them for five years. Participants who reported eating organic “most of the time” were 25 percent less likely to have a cancer diagnosis during the 5 year period compared to those who reported they “never” ate organic foods. More specifically, researchers found that those who consumed a mostly organic diet were less likely to develop lymphomas and postmenopausal breast cancers.

Dr. Shelley Tworoger, associate center director for Population Science

Moffitt epidemiologist Dr. Shelley Tworoger says the study is a good start, but further research is needed. “This study is important because it asked people to report their organic food intake before they were diagnosed with cancer, further studies should be conducted in other populations. This is important because different countries may have exposure to different pesticides in the conventional foods that they eat, and there are likely very different dietary patterns across populations,” she said.

So what is organic? For produce to be certified organic by the Department of Agriculture, it must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and may not contain genetically modified ingredients. Certified organic meat must be produced by raising animals fed organic food without the use of hormones or antibiotics. According to the Department of Agriculture, organic sales account for just over 4 percent of all food sales in the United States.

If you can’t eat organic, all is not lost. You can still avoid genetically modified and processed foods and thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables.

“The message to remember is that eating lots of whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as limiting processed and red meats, can reduce cancer risk,” Dr. Tworoger added.