Organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic fertilisers or pesticides. As there is some evidence of an increased risk of certain cancers due to pesticides, it might be expected that eating organic food reduces this risk.
A web-based questionnaire asked people to score their organic food consumption. After 4.5 years, the rates of cancer were compared with these scores.
In these 69,000 people there were 1,340 new cases of cancer in that 4.5 year period, which seems a large number but perhaps not surprising given that Worldwide, there are more than 14 million new cases of cancer per year.
It was observed that compared to people who ate the least amount of organic food, people who ate the most organic food were 25% less likely to develop cancer during the study.
So, eating more organic food would seem to reduce the risk of developing cancer but it is not that simple; see ‘The Naked Truth’ below.
Even those eating more organic food still ate some non-organic food so were exposed to the same pesticides so the difference in cancer rates between a non-organic and pure organic diet may be even greater than the study observes.
Organic food costs more than non-organic food so it is likely that people who eat organic food have more income which can lead to a healthier lifestyle including gym subscriptions and a healthier diet overall which could affect the rates of cancer.
Those people eating more organic foods have already decided to ‘eat healthier’ and this may translate into other lifestyle choices such as exercise, alcohol consumption, taking of supplements and smoking, all of which could affect the rates of cancer.
Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, online October 22, 2018