Organic food consumption linked to reduced cancer risk

1. Self-reported consumption of labeled organic foods in a French population was linked to lower rates of cancer development in this prospective cohort study. 

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)       

Study Rundown: Cancer remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide and occupational pesticide exposure has an established environmental risk for the development of malignancy. Concerns regarding residual pesticide content on foods remain with many consumers choosing organic food products where traditional pesticides have not been used. Small studies have demonstrated that consumption of an organic food diet resulted in lower measurable levels of chemical pesticide residues. It is not known whether the lower pesticide residue of organic foods translates to a reduction of cancer incidence. The current study is a prospective cohort that evaluated self-reported organic food consumption and incidence of cancer, while adjusting for known cancer risk factors. The study found that increased organic food consumption was linked to a lower risk of cancers.

This study may inform future policy and diet recommendations if confirmed. The main strengths of the study include the semi-quantitative evaluation of organic food consumption, prospective design, and large cohort size. The main limitations of the study include the self-reported data source, and potential for residual bias from unmeasured confounders in this volunteer cohort which is likely more health-conscious then the general population.

Click to read the study in JAMA Internal Medicine

Relevant Reading: Prospective association between consumption frequency of organic food and body weight change, risk of overweight or obesity: results from the NutriNet-Santé Study

In-Depth [prospective cohort]: This study is a prospective cohort analysis as part of the NutriNet-Santé study that began in 2009 and is comprised of adult French volunteers who answered a web-based survey on dietary habits, demographics, health conditions, and other variables. Cancer incidence was self-reported as part of a yearly health-status questionnaire. Multivariate cox proportional hazard analysis was used to determine risk of cancer associated with organic food intake after controlling for known risk factors.

The study included 68 946 participants followed from 2009 to 2016, of whom 1340 developed cancers during the follow-up period. High organic food scores were associated with lower risk of cancer (hazard ratio for quartile 4 vs quartile 1, 0.75; 95%CI, 0.63-0.88; P for trend = .001).

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