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Altern Ther Health Med. 2001 Jan;7(1):48-56.

A pilot study into the therapeutic effects of music therapy at a cancer help center.

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Division of Medicine, University of Bristol, United Kingdom.



Since the mid-1980s, music therapy has been a regular feature of the residential program at the internationally renowned Bristol Cancer Help Centre, United Kingdom. Music therapy complements other therapeutic interventions available to residents at the center.


To compare the therapeutic effects of listening to music in a relaxed state with the active involvement of music improvisation (the playing of tuned and untuned percussion instruments) in a music therapy group setting and to investigate the potential influence of music therapy on positive emotions and the immune system of cancer patients.


A quantitative pre-posttest, psychological/physiological measures, and qualitative focus group design.


A cancer help center that offers a fully integrated range of complementary therapies, psychological support, spiritual healing, and nutritional and self-help techniques addressing the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of cancer patients and their supporters.


Twenty-nine cancer patients, aged 21 to 68 years.


Group music therapy interventions of listening to recorded/live music in a relaxed state and improvisation.


Increased well-being and relaxation and less tension during the listening experience. Increased well-being and energy and less tension during improvisation. Increased levels of salivary immunoglobulin A and decreased levels of cortisol in both experiences.


Psychological data showed increased well-being and relaxation as well as altered energy levels in both interventions. Physiological data showed increased salivary immunoglobulin A in the listening experience and a decrease in cortisol levels in both interventions over a 2-day period. Preliminary evidence of a link between positive emotions and the immune system of cancer patients was found.


These findings, which link listening to music in a relaxed state and improvisation to alterations in psychological and physiological parameters, may provide a better understanding of the effectiveness of music therapy for cancer patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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