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Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer RiskFindings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study

Educational Objective
To prospectively investigate the association between organic food consumption and the risk of cancer in a large cohort of French adults.
1 Credit CME
Key Points

Question  What is the association between an organic food–based diet (ie, a diet less likely to contain pesticide residues) and cancer risk?

Findings  In a population-based cohort study of 68 946 French adults, a significant reduction in the risk of cancer was observed among high consumers of organic food.

Meaning  A higher frequency of organic food consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cancer; if the findings are confirmed, research investigating the underlying factors involved with this association is needed to implement adapted and targeted public health measures for cancer prevention.


Importance  Although organic foods are less likely to contain pesticide residues than conventional foods, few studies have examined the association of organic food consumption with cancer risk.

Objective  To prospectively investigate the association between organic food consumption and the risk of cancer in a large cohort of French adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants  In this population-based prospective cohort study among French adult volunteers, data were included from participants with available information on organic food consumption frequency and dietary intake. For 16 products, participants reported their consumption frequency of labeled organic foods (never, occasionally, or most of the time). An organic food score was then computed (range, 0-32 points). The follow-up dates were May 10, 2009, to November 30, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures  This study estimated the risk of cancer in association with the organic food score (modeled as quartiles) using Cox proportional hazards regression models adjusted for potential cancer risk factors.

Results  Among 68 946 participants (78.0% female; mean [SD] age at baseline, 44.2 [14.5] years), 1340 first incident cancer cases were identified during follow-up, with the most prevalent being 459 breast cancers, 180 prostate cancers, 135 skin cancers, 99 colorectal cancers, 47 non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and 15 other lymphomas. High organic food scores were inversely associated with the overall risk of cancer (hazard ratio for quartile 4 vs quartile 1, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.63-0.88; P for trend = .001; absolute risk reduction, 0.6%; hazard ratio for a 5-point increase, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.88-0.96).

Conclusions and Relevance  A higher frequency of organic food consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cancer. If these findings are confirmed, further research is necessary to determine the underlying factors involved in this association.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: July 10, 2018.

Correction: This article was corrected on December 3, 2018, to reword the conclusions paragraphs in the abstract and key points, and to fix a data display problem in Table 1.

Corresponding Author: Julia Baudry, PhD, Centre de Recherche Epidémiologie et Statistique Sorbonne Paris Cité, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) U1153, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) U1125, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Université Paris 13, Equipe de Recherche en Epidémiologie Nutritionnelle, 74 rue Marcel Cachin, 93017 Bobigny, France (

Published Online: October 22, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4357

Author Contributions: Dr Kesse-Guyot had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: Touvier, Galan, Hercberg, Lairon, Kesse-Guyot.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.

Drafting of the manuscript: Baudry, Kesse-Guyot.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Assmann, Touvier, Allès, Seconda, Latino-Martel, Ezzedine, Galan, Hercberg, Lairon, Kesse-Guyot.

Statistical analysis: Baudry, Kesse-Guyot.

Obtained funding: Galan, Hercberg, Kesse-Guyot.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Galan, Kesse-Guyot.

Supervision: Touvier, Galan, Hercberg, Kesse-Guyot.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Lairon reported serving since 2018 as a scientific expert, with no honoraria or personal funding, in 2 nonprofit foundations recently funded in France (“Fondation Bjorg, Bonneterre et Citoyens” and “Fond de Dotation Institut de l’Alimentation Bio”). No other disclosures were reported.

Funding/Support: The NutriNet-Santé study is supported by the French Ministry of Health, French Institute for Health Surveillance, National Institute for Prevention and Health Education, National Institute for Health and Medical Research, National Institute for Agricultural Research, National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, and Paris 13 University. Dr Baudry was funded by grant ANR-13-ALID-0001 from the French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) in the context of the 2013 Programme de Recherche Systèmes Alimentaires Durables.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funding sources had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

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