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Mindfulness does not improve cancer survival rates

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From James Coyne’s Mind the Brain blog at PLOSOne:

Despite thousands of studies, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and related meditation approaches have not yet been shown to be more efficacious than other active treatments for reducing stress. Nonetheless many cancer patients seek MBSR or mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR) believing that they are improving their immune system and are on their way to a better outcome in “fighting” their cancer.

Responsible scientists and health care providers should dispel myths that patients may have about the effectiveness of psychosocial treatments in extending life. But in the absence of responsible professionals speaking out, patients can be intimidated by how these studies are headlined in the popular media, particularly when they believe that they are dealing with expert opinion based on peer-reviewed studies.More.

Coyne misses the point. Patients are probably not “intimidated” by the headlines, whether they believe them or not. Most people who get cancer are already in mid- or late life, and eventual survival rates are less important than quality-of-life measures. Mindfulness probably improves quality of life for those interested, though we are in the midst of deflating a vast number of overblown claims about it.*

One could say the same about salt and whole foods, and even about peer review itself, as the editor of Nature recently did.

Predictably, in an age of scientism, there are far too many overblown claims out there altogether.

* See: A thoughtful response to the McMindfulness fad

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3 Replies to “Mindfulness does not improve cancer survival rates

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    If belief and states of mind have absolutely no effect on the body towards healing, relieving stress, and pain, as Coyne apparently holds, then I guess Coyne is not such a big fan of the much more well documented placebo effect either?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo

  2. 2
    News says:

    The placebo effect is one of the best attested in medicine, but it does not work well against cancer. Not many things do. I think mindfulness, properly used, can be a great help but mainly in focusing one’s life on living rather than dying – we do both at the same time anyway.

  3. 3
    Robert Byers says:

    I think the “mind” can help the immune system. unfortunately just seldon in serious matters. The bible says laughter is like a good medicine. So thoughts do work.
    However our thoughts can’t reverse disease but possibly help the immune system which does the fighting.
    People should try.

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