The National Cancer Institute sponsors a fact sheet on “Hyperthermia in Cancer Treatment.” This sheet explains that hyperthermia is a treatment in which the body is exposed to high temperatures. Because cancer cells are typically weaker than normal cells, they may succumb to the high temperature without any injury to the other cells. If this information suggests to you that infrared sauna is good for cancer, you’re not alone.
Prevention Rather than Cure
The Institute says that physicians use hyperthermia in conjunction with other cancer treatments, and often they administer one right after the other. You might get radiation, say, and then within 30 minutes be wrapped in a warm blanket. So, if you have cancer, you can’t expect a few sessions in an infrared sauna to cure you. But there is a theory of cancer that we all have some cancer cells in our bodies and we remain undiagnosed until they grow robust enough to resist our immune systems. If that’s the case, then infrared sauna may well offer a cancer prevention method.
In fact, I reported on this blog in August 2018 about an Ohio fire department that had installed an infrared sauna. Their sauna has a stationary bike in it, and firefighters are supposed to pedal the bike to increase their rate of sweat. The theory is that they would sweat out the toxins that they absorb fighting fires. The “sweating out toxins” theory stands discredited in some circles. It seems that sweating plays only a small part in the natural detoxification process, where the liver and kidneys do the heavy lifting. I suggest, however, that detoxification isn’t necessary if the sauna is acting similar to a hyperthermia treatment.
Better Than Conventional Sauna
In any case, infrared sauna is extremely safe and wonderfully relaxing. And it is better than conventional sauna. A conventional sauna works like an oven. It heats the air inside to about the hottest temperature a human being can tolerate (usually 185-190 degrees). You get in it and let the air heat you until you achieve a skin temperature of about 100 degrees. In contrast, the infrared sauna uses infrared technology to heat the person rather than the air. The infrared sauna user, then, achieves a skin temperature of 100 degrees in a cooler environment (typically 120-140 degrees). This means it’s easier to breathe in an infrared sauna. In fact, some people who can’t tolerate conventional sauna can benefit from infrared sauna. Note that hyperthermia uses temperatures up to 113 degrees, so it is closer to infrared sauna than conventional sauna.
Infrared Sauna for Cancer
I also believe that infrared sauna fights cancer in at least four other ways:
- promotes relaxation and prevents stress
- helps with weight loss
- improves cardiovascular health
- boosts the immune system
Infrared sauna lacks the precision and intensity to be considered hyperthermia. But it also has no undesirable side effects. If it may help to weaken and kill early-stage cancer cells, the risk of trying it is very small.
I will not say that infrared sauna prevents or cures cancer. But there is considerable evidence that it can contribute to a bodily environment that is not conducive to cancer, and in today’s world, that counts for a lot.
Photo: “Shore Crab – Carcinus maenas” by foxypar4 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 . The image is metaphorical, of course. The reason cancer is identified with the crab is surprisingly complicated, per this 2010 edition of NPR’s “Science Friday.” But the association has lasted more than 2,000 years.