August 4, 2023

Eating well and adopting healthy habits helps prevent cancer

Learn how lifestyle medicine is part of cancer care at Kaiser Permanente.

Sam Wiley (right) has been cancer-free since his surgery almost a decade ago. He credits Aaron Levy, MD, (left) and his advice to switch to a plant-based diet.

Fruit, veggies, exercise — all things you know are good for you, but could they also save your life? Sam Wiley thinks so.

Wiley learned he had colon cancer after a routine screening. After a successful surgery, he was cancer free. But he told his doctor, Aaron Levy, MD, that he wanted to do everything he could to prevent future cancers.

Dr. Levy, a gastroenterologist with Kaiser Permanente, explained that the food we eat plays a powerful role in cancer prevention. He encouraged Wiley to try a plant-based diet. Wiley started eating mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and beans.

Nearly a decade after his surgery, Wiley remains cancer-free.

Fighting cancer with lifestyle changes

Dr. Levy spoke about the benefits of a plant-based diet at Fighting Cancer with Kaiser Permanente. Cancer survivors and their loved ones learned how to live a healthy life after cancer at the virtual event.

Lifestyle medicine is an approach to treating cancer and other long-term health conditions. Doctors can prescribe changes to patients’ daily behaviors to support standard treatments.

For example, doctors may prescribe regular physical activity and healthy sleep. They show patients how to manage stress. They talk about the importance of social connection. And they often recommend that patients avoid cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational drugs.

Lifestyle medicine can help people with cancer. It can also help with chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Kaiser Permanente members in lifestyle medicine programs receive thorough assessments. Doctors then recommend lifestyle changes for their specific health concerns.

“In many cases, these programs are successful in reversing elements of their disease altogether,” said Sunny Dhah, DO. Dr. Dhah is a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor with Kaiser Permanente, who also spoke at the event for cancer survivors.

We have in each and every one of us the power to change the future. By adjusting our lifestyles, we can prevent as much as 30% to 50% of cancers.

Changes you can make today

Dr. Dhah said that 30 to 60 minutes of exercise 3 times a week can reduce your risk of cancer. And for cancer patients, regular exercise can help improve their recovery and quality of life.

Reducing stress is another important part of the fight against cancer. Chronic stress increases inflammation and reduces immunity. Stress also interferes with your body’s ability to repair its DNA. Stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation can help fight cancer.

Social support and personal connection are also linked to better health. In fact, when it comes to cancer, being isolated is as much of a risk as smoking. And it may even exceed the risk of obesity and physical inactivity.

“We have in each and every one of us the power to change the future,” said Tatjana Kolevska, MD, medical director of Kaiser Permanente’s National Excellence in Cancer Care Program.

“By adjusting our lifestyles, we can prevent as much as 30% to 50% of cancers,” Dr. Kolevksa said. “Let’s take that power and unleash it, so nobody will ever suffer from preventable cancer.”

Learn more about cancer care at Kaiser Permanente.