"Sunday market in Paris: all organic food" by Richard Smith is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Can an Organic Diet Reduce Cancer Risk?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

"Sunday market in Paris: all organic food" by Richard Smith is licensed under CC BY 2.0Julia Baudry &
Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot PhD
Centre de Recherche Epidémiologie et Statistique Sorbonne Paris Cité, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) U1153, Institut National de la Recherche

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Among the environmental risk factors for cancer, there are concerns about exposure to different classes of pesticides, notably through occupational exposure. Organic foods are less likely to contain pesticide residues than conventional foods, and studies have showed that an organic diet reduces exposure to certain pesticides (Baudry et al 2018, Oates et al 2014, Curl et al 2015). In the general population, the primary route of exposure is diet, especially intake of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. However, few studies have examined the association of organic food consumption with cancer risk.

In a population of 68 946 French adults from the NutriNet-Santé study, we found a reduction of 25% of cancer risk among consumers with a high frequency of organic foods compared to consumers with a low frequency, after accounting for many factors (such as lifestyle, diet and sociodemographic factors). Specifically a 34% and 76% decrease in risk was observed for post-menopausal breast cancer and all lymphomas, respectively, among frequent organic food consumers compared to consumers with a low organic food consumption frequency.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Although causality cannot be drawn based on one observational study, our results suggest that an organic-based diet could contribute to reduce cancer risk. Further research is needed to better understand the underlying factors related to this relationship.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The investigation of longer-term effects is needed and is planned as part of the cohort’s follow-up, also using estimation of pesticide residue exposure. In particular, we are currently conducting a new project based on a database developed in the BioNutriNet project to estimate exposure to pesticides residues from diet by combination of contamination data (accounting for the farming system) and consumption level.

In addition, the results of our study, in particular as regards lymphomas, need to be confirmed by other epidemiological studies conducted in other settings and populations, using validated tools to assess organic food consumption. It is on the basis of observational studies combined with experimental settings that it will be possible to draw firm conclusions.

As organic foods remain too expensive for some population segments, these findings should not prevent from eating fruit and vegetables, whatever the farming system (organic or not) as they are important protective factors against cancer risk.

No conflict of interest to report


Baudry J, Assmann KE, Touvier M, et al. Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk Findings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort StudyJAMA Intern Med. Published online October 22, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4357

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Oct 23, 2018 @ 10:18 pm

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