Causal attribution among cancer survivors of the 10 most common cancers

Academic Article


  • In an attempt to understand and cope with their diagnosis, individuals with cancer may develop beliefs about the cause of their illness and these causal attributions may impact psychosocial adjustment. Connecticut participants (N = 775) from the American Cancer Society's Study of Cancer Survivors-I completed a self-administered questionnaire assessing beliefs of the cause of their cancer and if they had contemplated the question why me? regarding their diagnosis. Written causal belief responses were coded into thematic categories and defined as either in (modifiable) or out (fixed) of an individual's control. Using logistic regression, the authors examined associations between sociodemographic, clinical, and psychosocial measures and identifying modifiable causal attributions, as well as contemplating why me. Most cancer survivors (78.2%) identified one or more causes. Lifestyle and biological factors were most common, whereas psychological factors were least common, with some variation by cancer type. After multivariate adjustment, only cancer type was associated with identifying modifiable causes. Participants who contemplated why me (47.5%) were more likely to be younger and reported a greater number of cancer-related problems. In conclusion, the majority of cancer survivors reported specific causal attributions, and many had contemplated why me. Understanding and assessing causal attributions and more general existential questions regarding diagnosis could aid in our understanding of survivors' adjustment and psychosocial well-being. Additional research in large populations is also needed to determine if other characteristics are associated with identifying modifiable causal attributions and asking why me. Copyright © Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Ferrucci LM; Cartmel B; Turkman YE; Murphy ME; Smith T; Stein KD; McCorkle R
  • Start Page

  • 121
  • End Page

  • 140
  • Volume

  • 29
  • Issue

  • 2