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Cancer, the mind and the person: what we know about the causes of cancer

  • David W. Kissane and Yasmin Al-Asady


At a time when patients are challenged to cope adaptively with both the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, clinicians need to respond appropriately to the many inevitable questions about the causes of cancer and contributing factors, including ‘Is this my fault?’. The evidence guiding answers to such questions has been confounded by many methodological challenges, but personality, stress and life events are no longer considered causes of cancer. However, social isolation, untreated depression and social deprivation continue to influence quality of life and reduce cancer survival times. Psychiatry might play a role in promoting lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of cancer, but more importantly it can influence disease progression by optimising patients' adaptation to the many challenges that cancer brings.

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Corresponding author

Professor D. W. Kissane, Department of Psychiatry, Monash University, Level 3, P Block, Monash Medical Centre, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia. Email:


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• Be able to explain to patients why stress is no longer accepted as a cause of cancer

• Highlight the importance of social support and guide patients to optimise this as needed

• Convince any oncologists who refer patients with cancer to you about the importance of screening for and recognising depression in their patients





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Cancer, the mind and the person: what we know about the causes of cancer

  • David W. Kissane and Yasmin Al-Asady


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Cancer, the mind and the person: what we know about the causes of cancer

  • David W. Kissane and Yasmin Al-Asady
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