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The Anticancer Lifestyle

One physician offers a promising new strategy for avoiding a killer disease—or keeping it from coming back.

Choose Health

So what are these cancer-fighting behaviors? Some you already know are good for you, such as exercise. But others are surprisingly simple habits that could make all the difference for you—as I believe they have for me.

Sweet Surrender. Sugar fuels cancer growth and triggers inflammation. Avoid refined sugar wherever it lurks, including sodas and ketchup. Also avoid white flour, which quickly turns into sugar in the body.

Mighty Meals. Adding known cancer fighters such as the spice turmeric to your diet will go a long way toward building up your body's defenses. See "Fierce Foods," right, for proven anticancer fare.

Wellness Walk. Regular physical activity has been shown to improve survival rates for many types of cancer. Just walking briskly for 30 minutes, six times a week, dramatically reduces the chances of a relapse after breast cancer treatment, for example.

Now and Zen. Stress causes inflammation and weakens your immune system, two disadvantages in the fight against cancer. Though we can't avoid stress in our lives, we can learn to respond to it differently and reduce our level of stress hormones. Practices such as yoga, qigong, and mindfulness meditation can transform our response to stress and strengthen our resistance to disease.

Clean Sweep. Though they can't be avoided completely, common household toxins should be minimized. Substances that can impair your body's cancer-fighting system include certain preservatives in cosmetics (called parabens and phthalates); Teflon released from scratched pans; percholorethylene used in standard dry cleaning; gases given off by new polyvinyl chloride objects such as those used in plumbing pipes; and bisphenol A from water heated in hard plastics.

As a physician who has now been living with cancer for 16 years, I've discovered we can all make our bodies tougher targets for cancer through the choices we make in our lives. Indeed, as strange as it may seem, I'm in better health and happier today than before I became ill. I feel more at peace, lighter, with more energy, drive, and passion for life.

Most people who start on this health journey notice a difference within a few weeks. Recent studies suggest that healthy habits start improving mood and well-being after two to four months, and can have an impact on cancer statistics within a year or two. What I've learned in my own journey is that the best way to go on living is to nourish life at all levels of my being: through my meals, through my walks in nature, through the purpose in my work, through the flow of love in my relationships, and through the protection of our environment. Science told me that this slows down cancer, and, perhaps even more important, it brings to my life, every day, a new light and a new meaning.

David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. This story is adapted from Anticancer: A New Way of Life. Copyright Éditions Robert Laffont, S.A. Paris, 2007; translation copyright David Servan-Schreiber, 2008. Printed by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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