Simply spending time in nature shows benefits both for body terrain factors linked to cancer and for reducing cancer risk. It may also help with symptoms common among people with cancer.

Safety and precautions

While being in nature can be healing, life-giving, and health-promoting, some aspects of nature require caution. Suffering from heat; tangling with poisonous plants, disease-carrying insects, or venomous animals; or being injured from a fall will definitely decrease your enjoyment of nature. Learning about and preparing to minimize hazards will increase your enjoyment and your benefits in nature, whether you’re spending time in your own back yard, an urban park, or an untamed national park. 

If you’ll be exploring a new area, check in to a guided hike with someone who can let you know what to look for and how to interact with the natural world in the area. 

Weather

Heat, cold, floods, thunderstorms, tornadoes, high winds, or hurricanes can make time in nature not only unpleasant but dangerous. Check forecasts and be prepared for changes. If you’re traveling in an area new to you, check local sources for what to expect, including extremes. Take extra clothing layers if you might be out when temperatures could drop quickly, and take plenty of water if heat could be an issue. Protect yourself from excessive sun exposure if appropriate.

Plants and animals

Poison ivy, poison hemlock, poison oak, and nettles are common plants that can cause rashes, blistering, and other discomfort. Thorny plants such as some berry brambles, thistles, or cacti can cause minor injuries. Poisonous mushrooms, which aren’t plants but are usually found around plants, can be very harmful and even lethal if eaten. 

Some spiders, insects, snakes, and aquatic animals produce venom that they can inject in you through a bite or sting. Most won’t be dangerous unless they feel you are threatening them. Ticks, fleas, and mosquitos can disrupt your enjoyment of nature and may even carry diseases. Before going out, learn about what to expect in your area and how to protect yourself.

Increased cancer risk

Some studies have found higher risk of cancer among people living close to or working in green spaces, mainly agricultural areas and other greenspace areas such as golf courses where chemical exposure is significant. These areas often expose nearby residents to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals.

Resources

Search the internet for plants, animals, and other hazards to look out for in your area.

Keep reading about time in nature or forest bathing

Authors

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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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, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. 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 and Program Manager

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

Reviewer

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, 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, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: May 31, 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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