A persistent urban legend about "cancer personality" gets debunked – again

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about the so-called “cancer personality.”

Can you imagine anything more disheartening than to have cancer and be told that you brought it upon yourself due to your own personality traits?

This concept has been around for a long time, but it didn’t really emerge in the popular culture until the 1980s when a team of European researchers reported that certain personality traits increased cancer risk.

Later research showed inconsistencies and possible manipulated data in the European studies, but the damage was done, and like an urban legend that just won’t die, many people still talk about this myth as if it’s backed up with respectable research.

Don’t believe a word of it.

Several years ago, Japanese researchers reported on a seven-year study that included more than 30,000 subjects. Results showed no link at all between any type of cancer and any personality trait.

New research from the Danish Cancer Society confirms those results.

Nearly 60,000 subjects took personality tests in the 1970s. After 30 years of follow-up, researchers report no connection with any type of cancer and two personality traits: neuroticism and extraversion. And among subjects who developed cancer during the follow-up period, these two personality traits were not linked to greater or lesser rates of survival.

In other words: be yourself.

If you’re diagnosed with cancer and you respond with anger or sadness or fear, don’t worry. Those emotions are normal and honest.

But don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing yourself harm.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson

“Personality Not Linked to Cancer Risk of Prognosis” Amy Norton, Reuters Health, 8/13/10, reutershealth.com