In previous blogs about cancer and saunas, I wrote about their role in direct cancer cell death, improved circulation/oxygenation, and elimination of toxins. Now I want to discuss two more ways that saunas can help control cancer: How they affect your weight and how they affect your immune system – both of which are extremely relevant to cancer control.
4 – Weight Loss: According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, obesity is a known risk factor, not only for cancer, but also for cancer death. There are many reasons for this, among them the fact that cancer-promoting hormones and carcinogens are lipophylic – they hang around in fatty tissue and have a tough time metabolizing out.
Infrared saunas have been clinically shown to help burn fat and dramatically aid in weight loss. A 2009 study showed that infrared saunas provide significant results in lowering weight and waist circumference in just three months. And for those who are sedentary due to medical conditions such as cardiovascular or respiratory problems, results were even more profound. Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a well-known integrative cardiologist, states in his article on the many benefits of far-infrared saunas: Their penetrating infrared rays increase blood circulation, which helps speed up your metabolism and burn calories — up to a few hundred calories per session. During a 30-minute sauna session, core temperature increases, and the body works hard to cool itself, often burning 300-500 calories in the process.
5 – Immunity Activation: While conventional cancer treatments often suppress immune function, hyperthermia can actually enhance it — through a whole cascade of immune cell responses. According to German professor Rolf Issels, MD, PhD, of the University of Munich, hyperthermia produces ´heat shock´ proteins on the surface of the cancer cells, making them more prone to attack by the immune system.
Doctor Gurdev Parmar, of the Integrated Health Clinic in Fort Langley, British Columbia, agrees. He explains that heat makes cancer cells look distinct from healthy cells, thereby generating an immune response that is both immediate and long-lasting. Because the damaged proteins on the surfaces of tumor cells look very different from healthy cells, the immune system is alarmed, and natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages are immediately sent to the tumor. These cells then activate dendritic cells (DC), which in turn present the heat-damaged proteins to T cells. Hyperthermia promotes the maturing and migration of the DCs to the lymph nodes, where T cells become activated against the cancer cell proteins. The activated T cells, called Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes, then attack and kill tumor cells.
Doctors at Clifford Hospital Hyperthermia Center in Guangzhou, China — possibly the largest hyperthermia center in the world – concur that heat treatments, in particular whole body hyperthermia, “can stimulate and reinforce the function of the body’s immune system.” At a core temperature of 41.8 ℃ (about 107 degrees Fahrenheit) it can activate long-acting T-lymphocytes. At body temperature of 39.8 ℃ (about 104 degrees Fahrenheit) maintained for a period of six hours, whole body hyperthermia “can increase the activity of T- and B-lymphocytes and the anti-tumor activity of…NK cells, and can facilitate the redistribution of the body’s white blood cells to improve the monitoring function of the body’s immune system.”
Although there are many techniques for generating hyperthermia, infrared sauna is definitely one of the easiest and safest. In an article published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, the authors conclude that “materials emitting electromagnetic radiation in the far infrared range, which are widely used in Japan for cosmetic [and] therapeutic… purposes, appear capable of potentiating leukocyte functions without promoting oxidative injury.”
 Beever BSc, MD, CCFP, Richard. Do Far-Infrared Saunas have Measurable Health Benefits? A Sequential Longitudinal Interrupted Time Series Design Study. 2009. Dr. Richard Beever BSc, MD, CCFP. Do Far-Infrared Saunas have Cardiovascular Benefits in People with Type 2 Diabetes? Canadian Journal of Diabetes 2010; 34 (2):113 – 118
 Liu B, DeFilippo AM, Li Z, Overcoming immune tolerance to cancer by heat shock protein vaccines. Mol Cancer Ther October 2002 1; 1147
 Niwa Y, Iizawa O, Ishimoto K. Electromagnetic wave emitting products potentiate human leukocyte functions. Int. J. Biometeorol 1993 Sept; 37(3):133-8