But little research has been done so her team scored 68,946 volunteers who had answered a health and lifestyle questionnaire for the French population study, NutriNet-Santé, on how much organic food they ate.
During the study, participants developed a total of 1,340 cancers, 459 of which were breast cancer. Most common were breast cancers, prostate cancers, skin cancers, colorectal cancers and lymphomas. Lower risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women was also uncovered, with a 34% risk reduction among consumers with a high organic consumption score versus low.
People who consumed the most organic foods had a 25 percent lower cancer risk compared with those who ate the least, the study found. One of the limits of the study was the reason or factor that influenced people not to consume non-organic food.
Should the results be confirmed, organic food may become a part of the general cancer prevention guidelines, as they could significantly lower the rate of new cancer cases. For the study, the researchers organized the volunteers into four groups depending on the frequency of their consumption of 16 organic foods that include fruits and vegetables, meats and fishes, vegetable oils and condiments, supplements, and others. The French researchers also assumed that the more organic foods a person ate, the lower their exposure to pesticide residue would be.
In an accompanying editorial, Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, and Jorge E. Chavarro, MD, ScD, both of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues said the study had several strengths, such as its large sample size, prospective design, and modest loss to follow-up.
We've all heard about the benefits of eating organic food when it comes to a healthy diet.
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"As a result, organic products are less likely to contain pesticide residues than conventional foods".
The study opens the door to many interesting questions, but it's not going to be the last word on whether organic foods matter for health, and cancer risk in particular.
"These factors may may have led to a lower cancer incidence herein than the national estimates, as well as higher levels of organic food consumption in our sample".
Since most people are not able to grow their own crops, they are prone to buying contaminated foods, especially from supermarkets where they are often cheaper than organic alternatives.
When they considered each type of cancer separately, they found that only three had a statistically significant association with organic food consumption.
What's "urgently" needed is a more detailed study that would address some of the problems in the French report, according to the commentary.