"In a separate study, we found that single males with head and neck cancer appeared to be at risk for lower survival... and in another study, we found single males with cancer had among the lowest quality of life," said Movsas, who is chairman of radiation oncology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
About 40,000 new cases of head and neck cancer are diagnosed each year, and about 11,000 people die from these cancers annually, according to the American Cancer Society.
The role of the patient's attitude in cancer treatment has been in debate for years. This is not the first study to assess whether emotional state could affect the course of cancer. However, this study had a larger number of deaths than some other studies had enrollees, the researchers noted, allowing them greater control over issues of chance that could affect the study results.
One advantage to working with people in a clinical trial, Coyne said, is knowing that they are all receiving the same treatment.
But positivity or negativity are not the issue, suggested Dr. David Spiegel, associate chairman of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. What matters is the way in which a cancer patient approaches the stresses in his or her life, Spiegel said.
"The authors vastly overstate the quality of their data and the findings," said Spiegel. "They used a subscale of a quality-of-life measure which is hardly a reliable measure of depression and provides, by definition, limited variance in mood, making it, by design, difficult to show a relationship with any other variable."
Spiegel also noted that head and neck cancers generally have a "very poor prognosis," are not hormone-sensitive, and usually require serious surgery and radiotherapy -- all of which has social and psychological conseque
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