Answering patient questions about the role lifestyle factors play in cancer onset and recurrence: what do health care professionals say?

J Health Psychol. 2010 Mar;15(2):291-8. doi: 10.1177/1359105309351245.


This qualitative study examined how cancer specialists answer patient questions about what might have caused their cancer. Findings showed that while they were often candid about the role of smoking and drinking in cancer onset and that of diet in cancer recurrence, body weight and exercise were rarely mentioned. Any reluctance to discuss the role of lifestyle factors in cancer onset and recurrence arose from a desire to minimize patient distress, limitations in specialists' knowledge of the causes of cancer and perceived inadequacy of the available causal explanations when risk factors are multiple and probabilistic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Awareness
  • Body Mass Index
  • England
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Temperance / psychology