People who have suffered and beaten cancer are willing to do anything they can to prevent the disease from returning. And that’s probably a mindset everyone should adopt, whether they’ve had cancer or not.
The good news: “Almost all the measures you could take to stay cancer-free after treatment hold true for those who have not had cancer,” says Dwight McKee, MD, who is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, nutrition, and integrative and holistic medicine.
Start with McKee’s simple lifestyle strategies that follow. Don’t just read them; commit to doing them for the long haul. As a physician who has made fighting cancer his life’s work, McKee says these tips are powerful, and not only advises them to his patients, but anyone else who will listen.
And for a complete guide to living a cancer-free life—even if you’ve never had the disease—check out Dr. McKee’s new book, After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients after Cancer.
After all, why not attack cancer before it attacks you?
1. Address stress
Chronic stress suppresses your immune function and stokes inflammation, which is like fuel for cancer, says McKee. Whether you get into yoga, hiking, or meditation, “the key is to find a stress-management technique that’s enjoyable,” he says. “If it’s not enjoyable, it’s not sustainable.”
2. Beware of mold
“Mycotoxins and aflatoxins found in mold are among the most carcinogenic substances known,” McKee says. If you’ve had a pipe break in your home, or your basement or bathroom is damp and smells like mildew, hire a mold-removal expert to check out your space and remove the threat, he says.
3. Break a sweat
Hitting the gym can cause immune system changes that may help you fend off cancer, according to a study from the University of Nebraska. Researchers analyzed the profiles of 16 cancer survivors before and after a 12-week exercise program, comparing their ratio of worn-out immune cells to immune cells that can fight off cancer. Before the exercise program, the survivors’ blood profiles were dominated by the worn-out cells, but after 12 weeks of training, those levels dropped by 15%.
4. Lend a helping hand
Clinical research shows volunteering, mentoring, and other acts of altruism pump up your immune function. “It’s necessary for good health to engage in something on a regular basis that’s rewarding,” says McKee, “and one of the most rewarding activities is helping people.”
5. Take this supplement
This comes up so much that you’re probably tired of hearing about it, but vitamin D is important for multiple aspects of your health—and that includes reducing your risk for cancer, McKee says. The problem: You’re probably not getting enough of it.
The easy fix is spending more time outside. Just 10 minutes of midday, summer sun has been known to deliver as much as 10,000 IU of vitamin D. But as we get closer to winter, the sun won’t be strong enough to trigger that much production, so you’ll have to work D-dense foods like fatty fishes into your diet, and add a supplement.
While the Institute of Medicine recommends a conservative 600 IU, The Endocrine Society—and most doctors—deem up to 2,000 IU daily to be safe. Look for a supplement brand with the trusted U.S. Pharmaceutical Ingredient Verification label.
©MSN, Getty Images