Is There A Cancer-Prone Personality? (1 of 3)

Is There A Cancer-Prone Personality?

Are some types of people more prone to cancer than others? Lydia Temoshok & Henry Dreher’s book ‘The Type C Connection’ explores the behavioural links to cancer & health. Take a look at some of the psychological factors that can make you cancer-prone and how to deal with them.

There is clear evidence that psychological factors – our belief systems, emotions, attitudes, behavior patterns, relationships, response to life events, etc. – play a role in causing, preventing and reversing illness. Naturally, the question often asked is: Is there a cancer-prone personality? And if so, what is its psychological basis?

Research shows that people exhibiting ‘Type A’ behavior patterns are (almost pathologically) impatient, highly charged and competitive, filled with anger and hostility which they express freely and assertively, while remaining consistently focused on their own needs. Such ‘Type A’ behavior patterns are correlated to cardiovascular (heart) disease.

With cancer, the research is not yet conclusive. However, the work of three well-known practitioners suggests that many cancer patients, especially those with a poor prognosis, show some common traits, broadly called ‘Type C’ behavior patterns.

Lydia Temoshok & Henry Dreher: Behavioural Links to Cancer & Health

In their book ‘The Type C Connection – The Behavioral Links to Cancer And Your Health’, the authors propose that ‘Type C’ behavior patterns are by sharp contrast, almost the polar opposite of ‘Type A’ behaviors described above.

It started when Dr. Richard Sagebriel, Director of the Melanoma Clinic at the University of California called Dr. Lydia Temoshok regarding his observations of melanoma patients, especially the ones with the weakest prognosis.

He said that many of them were “people-pleasers” i.e. they were driven by how others saw them and put in extra effort to be accepted and validated by people around them.

Dr. Temoshok had set up a research study to see if there was such a mind-body connection. They hence found a majority of the melanoma patients to be “excessively nice, un-complaining and submissive”. They were the “pleasers-appeasers”, who had spent their entire lives trying to be accepted and validated by others—spouses, parents, siblings, co-workers, friends, etc. In fact, their very identities seemed to derive from how they were perceived by others in their lives. Further, she discovered that in extreme cases, some patients continuously and consistently blamed themselves and suffered deep guilt combined with low self-esteem.

Temoshok says:

Out of touch with their primary needs and emotions, they look to others for signals on how to think, feel and act. What they shared was a manner of handling life stress. They coped by keeping their feelings and needs under wraps. These people never expressed anger, and rarely did they acknowledge fear and sadness. They maintained a façade of pleasantness even under the most painful or aggravating circumstances. They strived excessively to please people they cared about, to please authority figures, even to please strangers.”

Psychological Factors Like Repressed Emotions Compromise Immunity

Subsequently, Temoshok devised a series of scientific studies to explore ‘Type C’ behavior patterns in more depth and she found a strong correlation between repressed emotions and a compromised immune system – our first line of defense against cancer.

  • Patients who were more emotionally expressive had thinner tumors, more slowly dividing cancer cells and a much higher number of lymphocytes (immune cells) attacking the tumor.
  • While patients who were less emotionally expressive had thicker tumors, more rapidly dividing cancer cells, with far fewer lymphocytes attacking the tumor.

How To Address Behavior Links To Cancer?

Based on the insight that self-acceptance is the fundamental stepping stone towards healing, the authors encourage people to seek professional help in making 9 specific behavior shifts, which can transform their ‘Type C’ patterns.

  1. Develop awareness of your needs.
  2. Discover your inner guide.
  3. Reframe your ideas about your feelings.
  4. Learn the skills of emotional expression with doctors, nurses, friends and family members.
  5. Take charge of your medical care.
  6. Ask for and get the social support you need.
  7. Secure your legitimate rights.
  8. Work through hopelessness.
  9. Cultivate fighting spirit.


  • Do any of these ‘Type C’ behaviour patterns apply to you or to a loved one?
  • Which ones resonate most strongly?
  • What steps are you taking to manage or transform them?
  • Have you sought professional help or guidance in this area?


Book:The Type C Connection: The Behavioral Links to Cancer and Your Health” by Lydia Temoshock and Henry Dreher (This link is for your information only. We do not earn any commissions/ fees when you click it and/or when you purchase the book.)



Written by Shalini Raja, a student of Communications at Mt Carmel College, Bangalore.

More from this Cancer-Prone Personality Series

Title About the article
Part 1 Based on the clear evidence that psychological factors – our belief systems, emotions, attitudes, behaviors, relationships, response to life events, etc. – play a role in causing, preventing and reversing illness, the question often asked is: Is there a cancer-prone personality? And if so, what is its psychological basis?
Part 2 Let us take a another expert’s view of the cancer-prone personality.
Part 3 This is our 3rd article in this series investigating the Cancer-prone personality.


  1. Destiny is truly decided by whether one is anchored to perceptions & performance or to their potentials!  Those anchored to potentials even burn their cancer – Lance Armstrong and ofcourse, Vijay in his own way.

    • Thanks for dropping by Ajit, and for sharing your inspiring thought about being anchored to one’s potential. Your message also sheds light on the power of being alive to possibilities. Do share any other inspiring stories with us.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Ajit … I’m very flattered to be spoken of alongside Lance Armstrong, because he is a great role model for us all. Sometimes though, his level of iconic heroism can feel inaccessible and out of reach for us ordinary folks who may be feeling vulnerable and fragile inside. It is important that each one of us find our own level and brand of heroism inside ourselves … that is the real journey. Vijay

  2. its very true. my father had died of cancer. it is perfectly true for him. Alas we would have known it earlier. i still miss him after 2 yrs of his death.

    • Dear Bimal, thanks for writing in … we are glad this particular article struck a chord with you. Losing a loved one is never easy and we empathise with your grief. You are right in that most people don’t know about the link between Personality Types and Cancer; we are trying to create more awareness about this and other similar insights. Please do your best to share  with your family members, colleagues and friends, so that they too may benefit from knowing this early enough to do something about it. Vijay

  3. Very disappointed to hear this ridiculous and unscientific theory pushed again. It is one way for those who do not have the disease to make themselves feel secure and happy that “they” won’t get it. During my so far 9 year battle with the disease I have met many many fellow cancer patients who were far from type C stereotypes and yet did not make it. Many of them “went down” fighting for their lives, many of them were angry, emotionally expressive and involved in their treatment – it did not help them. There is NO scientific basis in this silly theory – and it basically suggests that you ARE blaming people for their own illness…… It does NOT help cancer patients at all……

    • Dear Judi, thanks for sharing your disagreement so frankly; clearly the Type-C theory does not resonate with you, fair enough. We agree with you (and have mentioned upfront) that the research on the link between Personality & Cancer is not conclusive. Our intention is not to ‘push’ any theory, create any ‘stereotypes’ or to ‘blame’ anyone for their cancer, far from it. Our aim is to offer the essence of available (and published) information by well known authors and practitioners, so that our readers may open up new lines of self-inquiry and perhaps uncover some insights through which they can empower themselves and ultimately transcend their cancer experience. Considering the whole person (rather than just the disease), we believe, is a crucial aspect of a holistic and integrated approach and doing so runs the risk of opening up some controversial and provocative areas, which do not sit comfortably with everyone. Having said this, we respect your views, particularly since you have been dealing with cancer yourself for 9 years. We invite you to ignore these particular articles, however, if you browse the rest of our site, you may find other articles that may be more resonant and relevant to you … if even one such article gives you a new perspective or benefits you in any way, our purpose will have been served. Thanks once again, for writing in. Best wishes on your journey, Vijay

  4. This article is not representative to my nature or behaviour personality causes for cancer. I can vouch having overcame the disease at this point of time.

    • Thanks for writing in … and glad that you are doing well! Cancer is a mysterious disease and the point of view we shared doesn’t apply to everyone of course – our aim is to provide new lines of inquiry and to provoke new ways of thinking about the psychological basis of cancer – we are happy you did just that and arrived at your own conclusion. Warmly, Vijay


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