A comprehensive study has discredited the long-standing belief that depression and anxiety could be contributing factors to an increased risk of cancer. The research, conducted by the Psychosocial Factors and Cancer Incidence (PSY-CA) consortium, indicates that conditions like anxiety and depression are not direct causes of tumours. The findings were published in the journal Cancer.
Barbara Andersen, a respected professor and psychologist from the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, agreed with the findings, emphasising that many factors contribute to cancer, and it’s an oversimplification to attribute it to just one cause.
It’s common for those diagnosed with severe conditions to search for an attributable cause. However, Michelle Jacobo, a clinical psychologist from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, believes that placing blame on oneself due to one’s mental state isn’t productive or accurate.
The study, led by the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, examined data from over 300,000 adults from Canada, the UK, Norway, and the Netherlands. They identified a minor correlation between depression and lung and smoking-related cancers, but this connection largely diminished once adjustments were made for smoking habits.
Lonneke van Tuijl, one of the lead researchers, expressed hope that the findings would offer relief to those who might feel self-blame, emphasising that their results do not support the idea that mental health directly influences the onset of most cancers.
While no past research has shown a direct correlation between traumatic life events and an immediate increase in cancer risk, Andersen underscored the importance of emotional well-being post-diagnosis, emphasising its pivotal role in recovery and prognosis.
Michelle Jacobo discussed the therapeutic benefits of counseling for patients, aiding them in processing their feelings and bolstering resilience. Patients are encouraged not to suppress their emotions, as they are natural and fleeting.
Jacobo emphasised the balance between acknowledging feelings while also striving for resilience and hope, suggesting that patients can be both vulnerable and strong.