There are plenty of good reasons to eat organic food, but according to a recent study conducted in the United Kingdom, cancer prevention may not be one of them.1

As part of the Million Women Study, a population-based epidemiologic study that began in 1996, researchers from Oxford University surveyed more than 600,000 middle-aged women (mean age, 59 years) about the frequency of their consumption of organic food. Participants answered questionnaires on entry into the study and at 3, 8, and 12 years after recruitment, reporting whether they ate organic food “never”, “sometimes”, “usually”, or “always”.

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Data on cancer incidence were obtained from National Health Service registers. Women with cancer recorded before baseline or who acknowledged changing their diet because of illness were excluded from the analysis.

At baseline, 30% of participants reported never eating organic food and 7% reported usually or always eating it. Since very few of these women changed from one category to another over the course of the study, the researchers focused on a comparison between these two groups. Socioeconomic status, smoking, body mass index, physical activity, parity, and consumption of alcohol, fiber, and red and processed meat were controlled for.

After 13 years of follow-up, there was no difference in the overall risk of cancer between the two groups. Among women who usually or always ate organic food there was a slight increase in the risk of breast cancer (relative risk [RR], 1.09; 95% CI, 1.02-1.15) and a significant decrease in the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (RR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.65-0.96). The RR of other cancers was similar between the two groups.