PARIS (AP) _ A cancer patient who conquered Mont Blanc, the 15,860-foot summit of the Alps, said Tuesday his next challenge will be taking one day at a time.

''Just living, that is the real challenge, surviving day to day enjoying life with my wife and going to work,'' said Ikuo Numura, speaking through an interpreter, in a telephone interview from Chamonix.

Numura, a 47-year-old marine engineer, was the first of three patients to reach the summit on Sunday. He was followed by Kazumi Bansho, 49, and Tomomi Nasaki, 57.

After returning to the resort city of Chamonix late Monday, the three spent Tuesday celebrating their achievement by sightseeing, shopping and talking to reporters.

The three were among seven patients who attempted the ascent. The other four - two men and two women - turned back on the final day of the three-day climb because of dizziness and fatigue.

Numura said that when he reached the top he turned and shook hands with his French guide.

''He did not speak Japanese, but it didn't matter. I had no words to express my happiness,'' said Namura, who not only achieved the expedition goal of reaching the top, but also his personal goal of getting their first.

On the summit, swept by an unexpected blizzard, the three planted the flag of the ''Meaningful Life Therapy Association'' on the peak. They then pulled frozen cameras from packs and snapped pictures of themselves and their guides.

The association, which sponsored the expedition and raised funds from Japanese donors, is the brainchild of Dr. Jinro Itami.

''Cancer patients with a fighting spirit improve and live longer,'' Itami said in a telephone interview. ''Our association trains people to have this fighting spirit.''

About 600 patients are members of the association, based in the Shibata Hospital in Kurashiki City, southwest of Tokyo. The 6-year-old group employs about 20 staff members and is affiliated with about 10 doctors throughout Japan. Its aim is to help patients set for themselves creative, challenging goals.

All the patients who climbed Mont Blanc volunteered for the adventure about two years ago and received the approval of their personal physicians, Itami said.

''The patient must be his own doctor,'' Itami said before the climb. ''He must set daily goals to struggle against his physical deterioration.''

Five of the patients have had cancer operations within the last five years and are undergoing some form of therapy, such as radiation treatments or chemotherapy. Namura was operated on for rectal cancer less than five years ago, Mrs. Bansho had ovarian cancer and Nasaki had facial cancer.

The other two members of the expedition were operated on for cancer 10 year ago and are not undergoing treatment.

Itami said the patient's training for Mont Blanc included climbing Mount Fuji three times in the last 12 months.

The doctor said that when his three patients returned from the top, they shook hands and he said to them, ''fine, fine.'' The other patients then helped the three into the Gouter shelter, a refuge at 12,500 feet, where they gave them hot milk and helped them out of snow-plastered parkas and frozen caps.

The 25-member hiking team, including television crews, doctors and guides, had split into two groups and left the shelter at 3 a.m. Sunday, using lamps to light the way. The larger group soon turned back.

Itami said that those who didn't make it to the top were encouraged, nevertheless, by the height they had achieved and the success of their three friends. And, he said, his other patients in Japan were inspired by the entire team.

Cancer patients were not the only ones touched by Numura and his group.

''It is hard enough to make this climb in normal conditions, much less in a blizzard and with a major illness,'' said a member of the mountain police force Sunday. ''I say, 'Bravo.'''