Self-reported causes of cancer among 6881 survivors with 6 tumour types: results from the PROFILES registry.



Data from five population-based PROFILES registry samples (i.e. lymphoma (n = 993), multiple myeloma (n = 156), colorectal (n = 3989), thyroid (n = 306), endometrial (n = 741), prostate cancer (n = 696)) were used. Causal attributions were assessed with a single question.


The five most often reported causal attributions combined were unknown (21%), lifestyle (19%), biological (16%), other (14%), and stress (12%). Lymphoma (49%), multiple myeloma (64%), thyroid (55%), and prostate (64%) cancer patients mentioned fixed causes far more often than modifiable or modifiable/fixed. Colorectal (33%, 34%, and 33%) and endometrial (38%, 32%, and 30%) cancer survivors mentioned causes that were fixed, modifiable, or both almost equally often. Colorectal, endometrial, and prostate cancer survivors reported internal causes most often, whereas multiple myeloma survivors more often reported external causes, while lymphoma and thyroid cancer survivors had almost similar rates of internal and external causes. Females, those older, those treated with hormonal therapy, and those diagnosed with prostate cancer were less likely to identify modifiable causes while those diagnosed with stage 2, singles, with ≥2 comorbid conditions, and those with endometrial cancer were more likely to identify modifiable causes.


Although the exact cause of cancer in individual patients is often unknown, having a well-informed perception of the modifiable causes of one's cancer is valuable since it can possibly help survivors with making behavioural adjustments in cases where this is necessary or possible.


In conclusion, this study showed that patients report both internal and external causes of their illness and both fixed and modifiable causes. This differsbetween the various cancer types.


Our aim was to describe and compare self-reported causal attributions (interpretations of what caused an illness) among cancer survivors and to assess which sociodemographic and clinical characteristics are associated with them.

More about this publication

Journal of cancer survivorship : research and practice
  • Volume 17
  • Issue nr. 1
  • Pages 110-119
  • Publication date 01-02-2023

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