Eating organic foods does NOTHING
to reduce the cancer risk among
women, says new study
- Organic food is the choice of many wanting to avoid pesticides
- Oxford University study says the food types have no impact on cancer
- Researchers also found no increased risk of cancers linked to pesticides
- Slight link in reduction of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and organic food – scientists say this could be due to other factors
- Those who only ate organic actually had an increased risk of breast cancer
Eating organic food does nothing to cut a woman's risk of cancer, a new study has found.
Women who always ate organic fruit and vegetables over a period of nine years were no less likely to develop one of of 16 types of cancer than those who never ate that type of foods.
In fact, scientists actually found there was a small increased risk of breast cancer in those who only ate organic, according to Oxford University's Million Women study.
Many people turn to organic food because they believe it is healthier and because they want to avoid pesticide contamination, which many believe increases the cancer risk.
But when researchers looked at cancers specifically linked to pesticides, such as breast cancer and soft tissue cancers, they found no evidence of increased risks.
Many scientists who worked on the study believe any reduction or increase in the threat is probably the result of other factors.
Researchers asked 600,000 women aged 50 or over whether they ate organic food and monitored their health for nine years.
In total, around 50,000 of the women developed one of 16 of the most common cancers during the study period.
But a comparison between 180,000 women who never ate organic food and 45,000 who 'usually' or 'always' chose the products found no difference in the overall risk.
A reduction in the risk of the blood cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma was also linked to eating organic, but scientists said this could be due to other factors, or just chance.
Professor Tim Key, a Cancer Research UK-funded scientist at Oxford University, said: 'In this large study of middle-aged women in the UK we found no evidence that a woman's overall cancer risk was decreased if she generally ate organic food.
'More research is needed to follow-up our findings of a possible reduction in risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.'
There are concerns that widely used pesticides might increase cancer risk, but so far the evidence has been inconclusive.
Conventionally grown fruit and vegetables contain very small pesticide residues.
The new findings appear in the British Journal of Cancer, which is owned by Cancer Research UK.
Dr Claire Knight, the charity's health information manager, said: 'This study adds to the evidence that eating organically grown food doesn't lower your overall cancer risk.
'But if you're anxious about pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables, it's a good idea to wash them before eating.
'Scientists have estimated that over 9% of cancer cases in the UK may be linked to dietary factors, of which almost 5% are linked to not eating enough fruit and vegetables.
'So eating a well-balanced diet which is high in fruit and vegetables – whether conventionally grown or not – can help reduce your cancer risk.'
Peter Melchett of the Soil Association told The Times the researchers were too quick to dismiss the idea that organic food is linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, saying pesticides can find their way into soils where organic foods grow.
He said: 'They have a poor understanding of what pesticides are found in and how pesticides get into food.'