A mother’s burning question: How do I prevent my children from getting cancer?

As a mother and cancer survivor, you’ll never want your children to suffer and go through what you did. But what can you do? Dr Helen Muir offers guidelines for you and your family to follow:


• Shop on the outskirts of a supermarket, not in the middle aisles where all the processed food is displayed. Choose fruit, vegetables and pasture reared or free-range meat and chicken, and limit your dairy intake.

• Avoid cereals, biscuits, crisps, sweets or pre-packaged food. To keep your family happy, allow them to eat one of these as a treat on the weekend.

• For breakfast, eat granola, from nuts and seeds, rather than cereals. Alternate with eggs, fruit or smoothies during the week. Make your smoothies with protein powder, fruit, coconut or almond milk instead of cow’s milk.

• All breast and bottle milk contains IGF -1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) and is not advisable for cancer patients. Your family will need to get used to excluding dairy, as it is one of the most difficult foods, alongside gluten, to stop when you’re diagnosed with cancer.

• Pack protein snacks into their lunch boxes such as 12 almonds, 10 cashews, 10 walnuts, 30g biltong sticks, healthy protein bars, or leftover chicken. Baby tomatoes, carrots and portions of fruit can also be added.


• We live in a Third World country and I don’t want to get onto my soapbox again about the quality of our water. Please make sure you are purifying your water. Don’t let your children freeze water in plastic bottles. The dioxins leach out even more when frozen. Let them use high-density Polyethylene (HDPE) bottles or Tupperware to carry their water in.

• If your children are exercising a lot, don’t give them cooldrinks or sports drinks. Rather mix coconut water with Himalayan salt, which can be sweetened with xylitol or stevia. Always source xylitol made from birch, not corn.

• Fruit juices are not healthy for your children as they contain a large amount of fructose. If your children are peckish, between meals, rather opt for a protein snack and avoid sugary snacks.


• Children do what you do, not what you say! Incorporate exercise into your daily routine with your children. Get home from work, put on your takkies, and encourage them to walk with you or get onto their bicycles and ride with you. A 15-minute walk around the block and a conversation about their day is often all the quality time your children need.

• Limit the time they’re playing on technology to two hours. Switch off all laptops, cell phones and tablets an hour before bedtime.

• If you have not had a chance to spend time with your children, five minutes before lights out is also all right. Remember children spell love: t-i-m-e.

• Please ensure that your children don’t become overweight. There has been a dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes mellitus in teenagers and young adults. If they are overweight, your family meals and lifestyle are the problem, and need to be addressed.


• The World Health Organisation has increased the number of servings of fruit, vegetables and salad from 3-5 to 8-10. The reason for this is that the quality and quantity of the phytonutrients in our food has decreased.

If you are inactive, this amount of calories could lead to weight gain.

• Many children don’t eat this amount. As a result, we need to fill the nutritional gap with a food-based nutritional supplement. I feel all growing children should have a good quality omega-3, food-based multivitamin, vitamin D and a scoop of protein powder – containing the 11 essential amino acids.


• Genetics is a fascinating new science that will change medicine, as we know it.  What we do know is that we can influence the expression of the single polynucleotides (SNPs) that we have inherited from our parents, by modifying our epigenetics.

• Epigenetic influences consists of the water we drink; the food we eat; the toxins in the air; the environment that we live in; the stress we expose ourselves to; the relationships we nurture; the amount we exercise; and the toxins that we ingest and breathe, such as alcohol and cigarettes. As a parent, you can influence your children to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

Written by Dr Helen Muir.