The goal of the present study was to further knowledge on gender and role (i.e. patient versus partner) differences in psychological distress and quality of life as a consequence of dealing with cancer. There is some evidence that being the patient or the caregiver makes more difference for men than for women. In total, 173 couples facing various forms of cancer (two samples) and a control group of 80 couples completed the CES-D and Cantril's Ladder. Analyses of variance revealed that both female patients and female partners of patients perceived more psychological distress and a lower quality of life than women in healthy couples. In contrast, role did have an effect on men. Specifically, male patients scored as high on psychological distress and as low on quality of life as female patients and female partners, but psychological distress and quality of life did not differ between male partners of patients and their healthy controls. However, this effect was found in only one patient sample. The finding that female partners perceived more psychological distress and a lower quality of life than male partners could not be accounted for by differences in the physical condition of the patient or the partner.