According to some research, sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO 3 or baking soda) could help reduce the growth and spread of cancer . What is truth in all this? Can sodium bicarbonate be useful in treating cancer?

Blood pH, alkaline diet and cancer

Not everyone knows that blood pH CANNOT undergo too sudden fluctuations and that, to stay healthy, acid-base regulation should keep it at values ​​between 7.35 and 7.45.

The balance of blood pH within this small interval is guaranteed by various physiological regulation systems, active above all at the respiratory, blood and urinary levels.

Recently, some studies have hypothesized that the chronic lowering of systemic pH can negatively impact the state of health, predisposing to problems such as osteoporosis , reduced physical efficiency and premature aging. Let it be clear, however, that in most cases it is NOT the human organism that is defective in regulating blood pH; rather, it is the lifestyle of modern man that compromises its functionality. In particular, the lowering ( acidification ) of blood pH is promoted by some factors, including: acidic diet ( too much protein , insufficiency of magnesium , potassium and calcium , excess alcohol, excess nerves , poor or insufficient hydration – see PRAL ), smoking , excess sodium etc. The negative effects of such a condition could be: excessive excretion of urinary calcium and impairment of various body functions up to the INCREASED RISK OF CANCER. All in all, these hypotheses appear well founded, as long as we consider that the impact of similar eating habits on blood pH is not (or at least not the only) responsible factor; in fact, an “acid” diet is also poor in fresh fruit and vegetables and rich in proteins and animal fats , as well as exceeding in calories , salt , alcohol and sugars ; it is well known that similar eating habits, beyond the impact on blood pH, can favor * the onset of many diseases, including some forms of cancer.

It is no coincidence that sodium bicarbonate is a common ingredient in various alternative anti-tumor therapies (highly discussed and controversial because they lack scientifically validated efficacy ), where however it is often included in more complex formulations, including cocktails of different substances; for example, high-dose vitamin C , selenium , quercetin and other antioxidants , citric acid , THC (cannabinoid), curcumin , amygdalin , melatonin ….

*PLEASE NOTE: neoplasms have a complex etiology , typically multifactorial, that is, they can be caused or favored by a multitude of different factors (e.g. ultraviolet rays , ionizing radiation , tobacco intake, alcohol, food carcinogens and progcarcinogens, certain viruses or bacteria etc.), which can interact with each other and which in any case, to cause cancer, must defeat the body’s defense mechanisms .

It is therefore irrational to trace the causes of cancer to a single factor, especially if this is not accepted as a carcinogen by the international scientific community (as in the case of the tendency towards chronic acidity in blood pH).

Potential cancer benefits

If bad eating habits can lower blood pH to the lower limits of normality, good habits should be able to raise it or at least keep it at optimal values, helping to prevent the onset of cancer. In aid of alkaline foods , some researchers have studied the therapeutic potential of an extremely widespread and economical molecule: sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO 3 ) in the treatment of cancer.

Below we report the detail of the most important study in support of the usefulness of sodium bicarbonate in the treatment of cancer, a study which has been taken up and extremely dangerously and unconsciously magnified by various online sites.

The experimental ” Bicarbonate increases tumor pH and inhibits spontaneous metastases” carried out by the Arizona Cancer Center (University of Arizona) 1 has highlighted that the IDEAL extracellular pH for cancer growth (probably present in circumstances of dysplasia , neoplasia and metastasis ) is ACID type because:

  • Increases the glucose metabolism of the neoplastic tissue
  • It decreases blood perfusion to the benefit of tumor growth
  • Stimulates the invasiveness and metastasis potential of cancer.

This evidence is in agreement with that of other research/scholars; several experimental studies have in fact demonstrated that the extracellular pH of tumors is typically lower than that of healthy tissues, and that an acidic pH promotes invasive tumor growth in primary and metastatic tumors. In particular, the external pH of solid tumors is acidic as a consequence of increased glucose metabolism and poor blood perfusion resulting in hypoxia . Other studies 2,3 and others have shown that the oral administration of sodium bicarbonate is able to selectively increase the extracellular pH of tumors, in some cases improving the efficacy of some anti-tumor drugs.


In the same study, the oral administration of sodium bicarbonate in mice with breast cancer was studied , undertaken with the aim of increasing the systemic pH and consequently reducing the peripheral acidity of the neoplasm; the results were positive and after the use of sodium bicarbonate there was a moderation of the formation of spontaneous metastases originating from breast cancer in guinea pigs. The therapy also reduced lymph node involvement but did NOT decrease the relative number of tumor cells circulating within the lymphatic stream itself. Furthermore, the administration of intravenous sodium bicarbonate in other cancer models has proven useful in the reduction of liver and prostate metastases BUT it has had no beneficial effect on MELANOMA -type tagumentary compromises .
As can be seen from this brief summary, the increase in pH and the reduction of acidity by means of sodium bicarbonate have produced an undoubtedly positive effect on the growth and proliferation of breast, lymph node and liver cancer . and the prostate .

However, there is no shortage of critical issues with this study 7 ; for example:

  • the treatment had no effect on the primary tumor in any tumor type; therefore, it has not proven useful for curing the tumor, but only for slowing down its spread and reducing its aggressiveness
  • Oral sodium bicarbonate therapy produced only a slight increase in pH and was ineffective in inhibiting the growth of larger primary tumors, and in reducing the development of metastases in highly aggressive, rapidly growing cell lines.
  • The same authors of the study highlighted how the quantity of sodium bicarbonate that would be necessary for humans to obtain the same effects observed on guinea pigs would be dangerous for the patient’s health (risk of excessive increase in blood pH), suggesting that it would be preferable the use of proton pump inhibitors

Future research objectives

Dr. Pagel and his team are able to monitor changes in tumor pH using a very particular magnetic resonance machine ; thanks to this instrumentation, the research group will further investigate the effects of sodium bicarbonate on cancer in HUMAN patients suffering from the pathology in question. Pagel himself underlines in an interview that sodium bicarbonate does not eliminate the tumor, but slows it down and allows anti-tumor drugs to act more effectively. In fact, Pagel continues, « the administration of bicarbonate is however potentially dangerous both because in the long run it can cause irreversible damage to healthy organs, and because the quantity of bicarbonate tolerated by the human body is probably lower than that of the mouse; both because not all tumors produce high levels of acids; therefore the cure could turn out to be worse than the disease . ” That’s why researchers argue that the use of proton pump inhibitors would be more effective and safer than bicarbonate.

Further critical issues and health dangers

One of the pioneers of alternative anticancer therapies based on the use of sodium bicarbonate, Dr. Tullio Simoncini, was struck off from the medical register for having administered the product to patients suffering from neoplastic pathologies for therapeutic purposes, advertising its curative effect, discrediting some conventional cancer therapies, and making personal profit from them. Added to this were heavy sentences for fraud and manslaughter (see further information on Wikipedia).

This practice, in fact, is considered not only devoid of scientific basis but even harmful in certain circumstances, even proving to be fatal if used in high doses.

Furthermore, there is no shortage of studies that have shown how sodium bicarbonate is completely ineffective 7 , or worse, can increase the growth of some types of tumors, especially of the urinary tract or stomach 4,5,6 or enhance the carcinogenic effect of other substances…

Ultimately, pending further investigation, even the mere hope of curing cancer by simply taking sodium bicarbonate appears extremely optimistic.

At most, such an intervention could help conventional anticancer drugs in their action.


Essential bibliography :

  1. Bicarbonate increases tumor pH and inhibits spontaneous metastases – Robey IF, Baggett BK, Kirkpatrick ND, Roe DJ, Dosescu J, Sloane BF, Hashim AI, Morse DL, Raghunand N, Gatenby RA, Gillies RJ. – Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA – Cancer Res. 2009 Mar 15;69(6):2260-8. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-5575. Epub 2009 Mar 10.
  2. The potential role of systemic buffers in reducing intratumoral extracellular pH and acid-mediated invasion. Silva AS, Yunes JA, Gillies RJ, Gatenby RA. Cancer Res. 2009 Mar 15;69(6):2677-84. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2394. Epub 2009 Mar 10.
  3. Enhancement of chemotherapy by manipulation of tumour pH. Br J Cancer. Raghunand N, He X, van Sluis R, Mahoney B, Baggett B, Taylor CW, Paine-Murrieta G, Roe D, Bhujwalla ZM, Gillies RJ. 1999 Jun;80(7):1005-11.
  4. Lina B. A., van Garderen-Hoetmer A. (dicembre 1999). Effect of urinary pH on the progression of urinary bladder tumours. Food and Chemical Toxicology 37 (12): 1159–1166. DOI:10.1016/S0278-6915(99)00111-8. PMID 10654592.
  5. Lina B. A., Woutersen R. A. (settembre 1989). Effects of urinary potassium and sodium ion concentrations and pH on N-butyl-N-(4-hydroxybutyl)nitrosamine-induced urinary bladder carcinogenesis in rats. Carcinogenesis 10 (9): 1733-1736. DOI:10.1093/carcin/10.9.1733. PMID 2548752.
  6. Ehrnström R. A., Bjursten L.M., Ljungberg O., Veress B., Haglund M. E., Lindström C. G., Andersson T. (febbraio 2007). Dietary supplementation with carbonate increases expression of ornithine decarboxylase and proliferation in gastric mucosa in a rat model of gastric cancer. International Journal of Cancer 112 (4): 722-733. DOI:10.1002/ijc.23151. PMID 17960625
  7. Martin NK, Robey IF, Gaffney EA, Gillies RJ, Gatenby RA, Maini PK (marzo 2012). Predicting the safety and efficacy of buffer therapy to raise tumour pHe: an integrative modelling study.. British Journal of Cancer 106 (7): 1280-1287.
  8.  Bicarbonate and dichloroacetate: evaluating pH altering therapies in a mouse model for metastatic breast cancer. Robey IF, Martin NK. BMC Cancer. 2011 Jun 10;11:235. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-11-235.