The Cartesian wall separating the mind and body has been so thoroughly deconstructed that it’s newsworthy when a bodily condition is not affected by our mental state. After all, recent studies have shown that everything from chronic back pain to many auto-immune diseases are all modulated by various psychological factors, such as stress levels. But cancer appears to be relatively immune to the mind. Those tumor cells don’t care about what you think or feel. Here’s the Times:
The idea that emotional well-being can affect the course of disease finds no support in a new report on head and neck cancer.
The study involved more than 1,000 men and women older than 18 with cancers of the mouth, tongue and throat that had not spread. A questionnaire assessed quality of life, including physical health, family and social connections and emotional status. The patients were followed for an average of nine years, until death or until they stopped participating.
Although age, tumor classification, cigarette smoking and other variables were predictors of survival, scores on emotional well-being tests had no predictive value.
“A fighting spirit has its advantages, but one of them is not, apparently, cancer survival,” said James C. Coyne, lead author of the study, which appeared online Oct. 22 in the journal Cancer. “We looked at whether exceptionally high emotional well-being or exceptionally low emotional well-being had an effect. We found absolutely no evidence for either.”