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Can organic foods lower your cancer risk?

Executive Summary

The food we eat contains synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. It has been found to increase the incidence of various cancers by 33% to 614%, compared to organically sourced foods.

The article presents the evidence and explains what certified organic food is.

There is an marked increase in the incidence of cancer in the recent times. Some experts attribute it to the contaminated foods we eat. So would eating ‘non–contaminated’ food reduce the incidence of cancer?

The normal fruits and vegetables we eat have been sprayed with toxins such as synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. The meats we eat come from animals who are fed antibiotics and hormones to stimulate their growth.

So, if we track people who eat organic foods, which do not contain above toxins, we would be able to know if cancer risk has increased due to the non–organic foods we eat.

New study

A new study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, tried to find if people who mostly consumed organic food had lesser incidence of cancer than those who did not.

Salient points

Study involved 70,000 people in France over 5 years.

It found that people who mostly consumed organic food had 25% fewer cancers than those who never ate organic food.

The study observed that people who ate mostly organic food had a 76% reduction in the number of lymphomas (with 86% fewer Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas).

The study also found 34% reduction in the incidence of post-menopausal breast cancer.


Any food certified organic must be:

  • Grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides;
  • Must not contain genetically modified organisms;
  • Meat must be from animals fed organic food, without hormones or antibiotics.

Read more: Can eating more organic food lower your cancer risk?


Here is a counter–argument to the conclusions of this study: Organic food’s dubious cancer benefits.

Dr Perry Wilson, who wrote the above counter–argument says that since the people who eat organic food are health conscious, that probably helped in cancer prevention. This is a perfectly valid argument.

All studies have to remove such biases. The technique used is called controlling, or adjusting, for the bias.

The above study did try to remove the bias. However, such adjustment is not perfect. Most studies quoted in medical journals cannot remove such biases fully.

In conclusion

The “non–organic” food we eat may be one of the reasons why cancer incidence has gone up worldwide.

The American Cancer Society recommends consuming a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as rice, instead of refined grains such as flour, and limiting the amounts of red meat, processed meat, and added sugars.

Consider ‘organic‘ versions of the foods, to be on the safe side.

First published on: 28th October, 2018

Photo credit: Photo by Pixabay on


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