A study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine suggests that foods that produce sulfuric, phosphoric, or organic acids, may increase the mortality risk of cancer survivors with a past history of smoking.

Public health researchers analyzed the diet patterns of nearly 3,000 women who had either smoked in the past or had never smoked but have had breast cancer. The women were followed for an average of 7.3 years and given periodic dietary assessments.

“Higher acid-producing foods can lead to higher mortality from all causes, not just from cancer,” said Tianying Wu, an associate professor of epidemiology at San Diego State University, in a press release. “Some breast cancer survivors had highly acidic diets, but if they were past smokers with a long history of high-intensity smoking, their risk was three times higher than those who never smoked.”

Smoking increased the risk of all cancer mortality, including breast cancer. Also, women who had smoked before and continued to eat acidic foods had a higher incidence of breast cancer recurrence.

Cancer survivors who also smoked in the past will have a reduced capacity to process acidic foods and to excrete excess acid because they have impaired renal and lung functions essential to excrete acids, Wu said.

“When comparing plant-based to animal-based diets, it’s quite complex. Both can produce acid, but plant-based foods tend to have more minerals, which can balance the acids,” Wu said. “Protein is important for human health, but we just need to pay attention to the ratio of acidic versus alkaline foods that we eat daily.”

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