When it comes to cancer health and prevention, eating well is always a good idea. But does that mean people should choose organic foods over cheaper and arguably less wholesome products? Yes, says a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine that linked high consumption of organic foods with a significantly lower risk of cancer, MedPage Today reports.

The study, conducted as part of the ongoing NutriNet-Santé study at the University of Paris, analyzed a sample of more than 68,000 volunteers who answered a series of online questions about their nutrition and health. Participants were asked to provide information on their consumption of 16 organic products, including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and fish, grains, beverages and ready-to-eat meals. From these responses, researchers devised an organic food score ranging from zero to 32 points for each participant.

After adjusting the data for confounding variables, the study team found that compared with those with the lowest organic food scores, participants with high scores had a 25 percent lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer and all lymphomas, including non–Hodgkin lymphoma. However, researchers did not find a correlation with cancers elsewhere in the body.

“Organic food standards do not allow the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms and restrict the use of veterinary medications,” study investigators stated. “As a result, organic products are less likely to contain pesticide residues than conventional goods.”

However, there are some caveats. When researchers analyzed the data according to different subgroups, such as young adults, men, people with only a high school diploma, never and current smokers and participants who consumed a high-quality diet overall, the findings were no longer statistically significant.

The study recommends the promotion of organic food consumption among the general population as a promising preventive strategy against cancer while noting that the high cost of organic food remains a significant barrier to more widespread consumption. 

If you can’t access or afford organic foods, consuming conventionally grown produce is still better than forgoing fruits and vegetables altogether and likely outweighs the risks of potential pesticide contamination, researchers stressed.

To learn more about the links between diet and cancer risk, click here.