Is organic a must to reduce cancer risk?

ehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to [email protected].

QUESTION: I read that eating organic can lower the risk for cancer. Do I really have to spend all that money to lower my cancer risk?

What if I can’t even find organic produce at my local grocery?

— Jill B., Pierre, South Dakota

ANSWER: The news you’re referring to is the new French study that found eating organic lowered cancer rates significantly, especially for lymphatic cancers.

We know eating organic is important for three months prior to conception, and for women during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. But this study looked at cancer and organic food consumption in adults over age 40. Almost 60,000 participants offered a one-time report on their consumption of 16 organic foods in terms of whether they ate them never, occasionally or most of the time.

Over five years, those eating the most organic foods had a 20 percent lower rate of cancer than the other groups, while the risk for non-Hodgkin’s and other lymphomas decreased by almost 70 percent.

But this study did not control for the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, something people who eat organic foods are known for. So we say:

1. To stave off chronic diseases, from cancer to diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease, eat seven to nine servings of produce a day, organic or not! A five-year study in the International Journal of Cancer found that eating lots of cruciferous veggies and red and yellow fruits and veggies (no mention of organic) reduces cancer risk, especially for the most aggressive kinds!

And a U.K. study of more than 600,000 women found no correlation between eating organic foods and reducing cancer risk, except perhaps for non-Hodgkin’s and other lymphomas.

2. Become physically active. According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, more than two dozen studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who are sedentary, and three dozen studies show that exercisers reduce colon cancer risk by 20 percent or more compared with sedentary people.

So don’t worry if you’re not eating organic. Just make sure you wash your fruits and veggies well.

It’s more important to eat a plant-based diet, sleep well and exercise (aerobics and strength-building) for 60 minutes most days.