When it comes to cancer, does a healthy mind = a healthy body?

Relax: a mental breakdown could promote cancer.

In one of our favorite cancer-related books, Anticancer: A New Way of Life, Dr. David Servan-Schreiber highlights a topic that many people find fascinating: a potential “mind-body connection” and how it relates to the development of cancer.

About 2,000 years ago, physician Galen, of Greece, stated that people suffering from depression were more likely to become ill. Then, in 1759, a British surgeon elaborated on Galen’s theory, writing that the onset of cancer was often correlated with “disasters in life,” such as an event that causes a person “grief” or “trouble.” Almost ninety years later, British medical experts asserted that situations like depression, loss of a job, or relationship problems “constitute the most powerful cause of the disease [cancer].”

Dr. Walter Hyle Walshe, a physician who worked on studies related to the onset of illness and traumatizing life experiences, believed in the mind-body connection wholeheartedly, writing “I have myself met with cases in which the connection appeared so clear that I have decided questioning its reality would seem a struggle against reason.”

Much more recent analysis reveals that many women diagnosed with breast cancer believe that their cancer is related to a serious and stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce. It is important to understand, however, that a “cellular anomaly,” or the onset of cancer in one’s body, is a gradual process. What many people believe is that a previously healthy cell becomes cancerous due to unhealthy environmental exposures – like inhaling cigarette smoke or being exposed to radiation.

Or, when a person with healthy cells experiences a serious, life-changing or traumatizing event.

Some people, of course, question whether or not living an anticancer lifestyle can in fact prevent cancer at all, and it is safe to assume that, to many, suggesting that life stressors promote the development of cancerous tumors sounds radical and silly. There’s been much research, though, into this theory, including psychological studies that state that some people have a “cancer-prone personality,” dubbed “Type C Personality” by a handful of prominent doctors in the field.

Type C people exhibit certain traits, including a general feeling of unhappiness when discussing their childhood, a dislike for conflict and confrontation, an obsession with one aspect of their life, such as their career, in an effort to avoid disappointment in another area of their life which they really care about (like a serious relationship). While the studies about Type C people are interesting, the idea that people may be more likely to develop cancer due to their personality has been “abandoned.”

Despite this, these and other related studies show us that the potential for healthy cells to become cancerous because of the way we live our lives is a valid point. Think about it this way: a person who is consistently stressed, avoids conflict and bottles up their emotions, is isolated and doesn’t have supportive and loving relationships, rarely gets enough sleep, eats poorly and hangs around with people who smoke cigarettes is probably more likely to get cancer than a person who eats well, avoids major stress, has solid friendships and has little regret about their childhood and their life decisions in general, right?

It reminds us of how doctors believe that a positive attitude absolutely helps cancer patients increase their survival rate and get the most out of their cancer treatment. If a positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle can help you beat cancer, why couldn’t it help you avoid it altogether?

To learn more about the connection between life events and the onset of cancer, we recommend reading Dr. Servan-Schreiber’s book, as well as the writings of German Psychotherapist Ryke Geerd Hamer, who hypothesized that there’s indeed a connection between the health of the mind and the health of the body.


Anticancer: A New Way of Life


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