Creating a Healing Environment at a glance

Our physical environments bring us in contact with many exposures every day. What we eat and drink, touch, or breathe in can affect our bodies and our health. Our environment connects to cancer in both positive and harmful ways.

Nature includes beneficial exposures such as many plants and animals, air, water, and daytime light, but also harmful exposures such as some natural chemicals, viruses, smoke, and radiation.

Human-manufactured chemicals, bright light at night, and additional sources of radiation have brought further harmful exposures into our lives, sometimes polluting the food, air, and water we depend on.  

In brief: 

  • Exposures to nature can be helpful with both your body terrainthe internal conditions of your body, including nutritional status, fitness, blood sugar balance, hormone balance, inflammation and more and some symptoms common among people with cancer.
  • Light—both the timing and the quality of light—may impact your hormone balance, especially sleep-regulating hormones. 
  • Ionizing radiation—from the sun and tanning beds, from medical imaging or radiation therapy, and from radioactive materials—is strongly linked to higher risk of many cancer types.
  • Many chemicals and a few other substances are also linked to higher risk of some cancer types.
  • Nighttime work shows mixed links to cancer, with higher risk of some cancers but lower risk of others. 
  • Pleasant sounds can be calming and promote healing, while noise shows limited evidence of a link to anxiety.
  • A few microorganisms—viruses and bacteria, some of which are common among people—cause several types of cancer. 

Evidence related to each of these exposures is in How can Creating a Healing Environment help you? What the research says ›

You can take steps to increase beneficial exposures and minimize harmful ones. Receiving a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean it’s too late to remove harmful substances and exposures from your surroundings. In fact, your body’s natural abilities to heal will be enhanced by removing exposures that have these negative effects:

  • Harm your immune system
  • Disrupt your hormone balance
  • Increase your stress response
  • Disrupt your sleep
  • Contribute to symptoms and side effects of cancer and treatments

Increasing health-promoting exposures will further enable your body’s optimal functioning. Creating a (more) healing environment for yourself is a step you can take to promote your healing and wellness. See Making changes in your environment ›

Words of guidance

Read some words of inspiration and guidance from Michael Lerner, CancerChoices co-founder and author of Choices in Healing.

Keep reading


Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Maria Williams

Research and Communications Consultant
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Maria Williams is a research and communications consultant who brings over 15 years’ experience in research, consumer education, and science communication to CancerChoices. She has worked primarily in public health and environmental health.

Maria Williams Research and Communications Consultant


Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: February 22, 2024

Last full literature review: March 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

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