Organic Food Consumption Linked to Lower Cancer Risk, But Further Study Needed
Is a higher frequency of organic food consumption correlated to a lower risk of cancer?
A large, prospective study in French adults showed that individuals who consumed organic foods at a higher frequency had a lower risk of cancer overall (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03335644). The study findings were published online October 22, 2018, in JAMA Internal Medicine. 1
To conduct the study, researchers recruited French adult volunteers to complete online questionnaires. Participants were asked about their consumption frequency of organic foods for 16 products. This information was then used to generate an organic food score on a 0- to 32-point scale. Information was also collected on a variety of potentially confounding variables, including occupational status, monthly household income, physical activity, and smoking status.
A total of 68,946 participants were included in the analysis. Participants had an average age of 44.2 years at baseline and 78% were female. At follow-up, 1340 individuals had cancer. The most common types were breast cancer (459 individuals), prostate cancer (180 individuals), skin cancer (135 individuals), colorectal cancer (99 individuals), non-Hodgkin lymphoma (47 individuals), and other lymphomas (15 individuals).
After controlling for a variety of confounding variables, researchers found that high organic food scores were correlated to a reduced risk of cancer overall (P = .001), with an absolute reduction in risk of 0.6%.
The study authors acknowledged in the article that although they accounted for a “wide range” of covariates, “the observed associations may have been influenced by residual confounding.”
“Further prospective studies using accurate exposure data are necessary to confirm these results and should integrate a large number of individuals,” the study authors wrote. “Although our findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer.”
Interestingly, the clinical trial identifier in the current study was linked to another prospective study that was published earlier this year, which demonstrated that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a significant increase (of greater than 10%) in the risks of both overall cancer and breast cancer.2
- Baudry J, Assmann KE, Touvier M, et al. Association of frequency of organic food consumption with cancer risk [published online October 22, 2018]. JAMA Intern Med. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4357
- Fiolet T, Srour B, Sellem L, et al. Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort. BMJ. 2018;360:k322.