Medicine: Can Attitudes Affect Cancer?

A new study casts doubt on the power of positive thinking

In a 1976 New England Journal of Medicine article called "Anatomy of an Illness," Norman Cousins, then the erudite editor of the Saturday Review, described how he had cured himself of spinal arthritis by adopting a healthy mental attitude, laughing a lot and taking vitamin C. Other diseases, Cousins implied, might also succumb to positive thinking. The article struck a responsive chord. It was reprinted in other medical journals, supported by letters to Cousins from some 3,000 doctors, and eventually expanded by the author into a briskly selling 1979 book of the same name. Despite complaints from other doctors who studied...

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