Does eating a diet of organic food prevent cancer, or cure cancer if you've been diagnosed with it?"

Insufficient fruit and vegetable consumption is estimated to cause around 1800 cancer cases in Australia each year. There is no evidence that organic produce is higher in the nutrients that help to prevent cancer than fruit and vegetables farmed in conventional ways. A systematic review of 100,000 journal articles and studies over 50 years, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluded that “evidence is lacking for nutrition-related health effects that result from the consumption of organically produced foodstuffs”. Nor is there any evidence that fruit and vegetables farmed in conventional ways increase cancer risk in the consumer. 

Foods Standards Australia New Zealand has advised that the chemical residues on conventionally produced foods are so low that they aren’t considered a health risk. Oxford University’s Million Women study asked 600,000 women aged 50 or over whether they ate organic food and monitored their health for nine years. They looked at cancers specifically linked to pesticides such as breast cancer and soft tissue cancer and found no evidence that a women’s overall cancer risk was decreased if she generally ate organic food. 

Organic fruits and vegetables are grown without using synthetic pesticides, hormones and fertilisers. People may choose to eat organic foods for a number of reasons – taste, environmental factors, reported health benefits or personal preference. However, organic food is generally more expensive than other fruit and vegetables which may be a barrier for some. 

Cancer Council recommends that people aim to have two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. This will not only help to reduce your risk of cancers associated with low fruit and vegetable intake, it will also help to reduce your risk of cancers caused by high body mass, much of which is related to poor nutrition, and which are diagnosed in around 4000 Australians each year. So whether organic or not, aim for two and five. If you are worried about pesticide residue on fruit and vegetables, wash them before eating.