Eating an Organic Diet May Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Frequently eating a variety of organic foods may significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer, according to a groundbreaking study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Study participants whose diets contained the highest amount of organic foods had a 25 percent reduction in overall cancer risk, compared with those whose diet had the lowest share of organic food.

The study joins the growing body of research showing the health benefits of eating foods with fewer pesticides, such as better reproductive health and a higher chance of conceiving.

The findings are part of a French study that tracked nearly 70,000 people, about three-quarters of them women, assessing how often they ate organic foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, eggs and grains. After four years, researchers found a significantly lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other lymphomas in the group of people who ate the most organic foods.

People who ate the most organic food were also more educated, had a higher income and better jobs, were more physically active, and ate more fruits, vegetables and nuts, and less processed meat, poultry and milk. But even after researchers controlled for these health indictors, their lowered risk of cancer remained statistically significant.

The greatest reduction of risk, 86 percent, was seen for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Previous studies have linked a risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with exposure to specific pesticides such as glyphosate, the weed killer in Monsanto’s Roundup that is the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S. and the world. In 2014, a similar study of 600,000 British women found a 21 percent reduction in risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in those who ate the most organics.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, has classified three pesticides as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” including glyphosate, which EWG’s recent tests found in oat-based breakfast foods marketed to children, and the organophosphate pesticides malathion and diazinon. Dietary studies in the U.S. and Europe have shown that when adults and children switch from a conventional diet to an organic diet, the levels of organophosphate pesticides in their urine decrease.

Organic food can be expensive. That’s why we created the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, including the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists of conventional produce with the highest and lowest number of pesticide residues, to help consumers reduce their pesticide exposure.   

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