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Curr Opin Oncol. 2008 Jul;20(4):372-7. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0b013e3283021690.

Impact of psychotherapy on cancer survival: time to move on?

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  • 1Department of Psychosocial Cancer Research, Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Danish Cancer Society, Copenhagen, Denmark.



The effect of psychotherapy on the survival of cancer patients has been debated for the past 20 years, mainly due to contradictory findings in the studies published so far. Several reviews have been published, almost all of which criticize the methods used in the studies. In 2007, three replication studies were published, which indicate that the hypothesis that psychotherapy prolongs life should be abandoned. The purpose of the present review of randomized studies of psychosocial intervention is to determine the strength of the evidence for enhanced survival after participation in psychosocial interventions.


Three recently published replication studies, which addressed a number of the methodological flaws of earlier studies, did not report better survival among the patients receiving the intervention than among those in the control group.


The hypothesis that psychotherapy enhances survival should be abandoned in the light of the latest replication studies, which show null results for improved survival after psychotherapy. The evidence to date points to a need for investigating the interactions between the medical, psychological, social and health behaviour components of intervention programmes, as recently published studies indicate reduced mortality among patients who engage in physical activity and change to a healthier diet.

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