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Why This Food Doesn’t Lower Your Cancer Risk

By on April 22, 2014
For many people, it’s their worst fear: Dying from cancer. Yet when it comes to lowering their risk, many people think making the switch to organic foods could be a lifesaver–foods that supposedly have better health benefits, more antioxidants, and no commercial pesticides.

Yet research now shows that doing so doesn’t affect your risk at all–at least if you’re a woman.

“This study adds to the evidence that eating organically grown food doesn’t lower your overall cancer risk,” says Dr. Claire Knight, health information manager for Cancer Research UK. “But if you’re anxious about pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables, it’s a good idea to wash them before eating.”

In most countries, “organic” usually refers to food that wasn’t grown with commercial pesticides or fertilizers, believed to contain chemicals that may increase the risk of cancer. While there has not been any proof to substantiate these claims, many people still believe that organic food are safer–which, to them, translates to a lower cancer risk.

But now, according to the evidence, there’s proof that it doesn’t affect your cancer risk at all.

“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,” says Tim Key, a professor of epidemiology and deputy director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at Oxford, who helped research the study.

What Did They Find?

While the emphasis here is that this was simply an epidemiological study–that is, they found links between two causes, but couldn’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship–researchers say their findings do show that organic foods offer little benefit for those who want to avoid cancer.

So what did they find?

  • First, they examined data involving 623,080 women in the U.K. and then quizzed them about their eating habits–namely how much organic food they ate, following up for a 9 year period.
  • From there, they also looked at how many of them developed cancer–ranging from ovarian cancer to lung cancer.
  • They then compiled the data together, sectioning the women into organic and non-organic eating groups. They compared their eating habits to reported incidences of cancer.

Now for the bad news: Researchers found that those who opted for organic food didn’t face a lower risk of most cancers compared to those who ate commercial produce. In one instance, however, researchers did find that those who ate organic faced a slightly higher risk of breast cancer–though it hasn’t been explained why this may be the case.

Either way you look at it, it looks like there really isn’t an advantage to going organic here.

“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,” says Knight. ” So eating a well-balanced diet which is high in fruit and vegetables–whether conventionally grown or not–can help reduce your cancer risk.”

Her advice? Instead of focusing on what is or isn’t organic, focus on eating a wholesome diet instead–one that is rich in vegetables, fruits, and less of the bad stuff, such as processed food. This alone is more effective for reducing your cancer risk.

Readers: What else do you do to reduce your risk of cancer?

Sources:
Press Release: Organic Foods Don’t Reduce Your Cancer Risk, Say Researchers – OX.ac.uk
Study: Organic Foods Don’t Reduce Cancer Risk When Compared to Commercial ProduceMedicalNewsToday.com

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