More than twenty years ago, the American Cancer Association asked the question, is there a cancer-prone personality? At the time, results were inconclusive and researchers needed much more information before they could put the debate to rest. Since then, studies have shown that there may indeed be a link between behavior and personality and the onset of and recovery from cancer.

We know that emotions such as depression, anger, and hostility make us more prone to illness and disease; and it’s been shown that positive attitudes such as hope, optimism, and happiness strengthens our immune system and protects us from disease. Recent studies point to two personality types that seem to make us either cancer-prone or cancer resistant.

Cancer-Prone Personality Types

• Represses both positive and negative emotions.

• Shows anger, resentment, or hostility towards others.

• Takes on extra duties and responsibilities, even when they cause stress.

• Reacts adversely to and does not cope well with life changes.

• Is negative or pessimistic.

• Becomes easily depressed or has feelings of hopelessness.

• Worries often and excessively about others.

• Feels the need for approval and to please others.

Cancer-Resistant Personality Type

• Expresses emotions in a positive and constructive way.

• Controls anger and resolves anger issues positively.

• Knows when to say no.

• Copes well with stress and feels in control of situations.

• Is optimistic and hopeful.

• Does not become easily depressed.

• Seeks out and maintains social support networks.

• Does not worry excessively.

• Likes to please, but does not seek approval as an emotional crutch.

As with everything else, there are always exceptions: some of the most optimistic and positive among us will get cancer, and some of the angriest and most hostile will live to be 100, cancer-free. But when a cancer patient is told that his or her disease is terminal, those who adopt cancer-resistant traits tend to live longer because their newly acquired behaviors will automatically boost immunity.

Mind-body techniques such a meditation and guided imagery can have a positive effect on cancer treatment. A patient’s coping style, behavior, and recovery strategy are critical factors in five-year survival rates. Furthermore, mortality is typically reduced for those who have a social support network compared with those who are socially isolated; and patients who establish a recovery program that includes stress management and relaxation techniques have fewer relapses. So there is, indeed, a link between mind and body when it comes to the effectiveness of cancer therapies.

If researchers have learned anything it’s that even a disease like cancer is much more easily overcome when we use the mind-body connection to help fight it. And that by strengthening and conditioning the mind part of the mind-body connection, we can extend life and optimize the chances of recovery. In future blogs, I’ll discuss using self-healing images and other specific techniques from my book Mind-Body Health & Healing that anyone can use to boost immunity and help reverse cancer growth.

About the Author

Andrew Goliszek, Ph.D.

Andrew Goliszek, Ph.D., is a professor at North Carolina A&T State University. He studies how the mind can heal the body.

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