Supplementary Material for: Alexithymia in Cancer Patients: Review of the Literature

<i>Objective:</i> To summarize the literature on alexithymia in cancer patients. <i>Methods:</i> The empirical literature published between 1972 and January 2010 was searched through MEDLINE, PSYINFO, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library. Key words were: alexithymia, affective symptoms, cancer, neoplasms. <i>Results:</i> The search identified 16 relevant studies which are methodologically problematic and show conflicting results. However, several interesting hypotheses emerge such as a possible link between alexithymia and the immune system, between alexithymia and quality of life, or between alexithymia, anxiety and depression. The question to what degree alexithymia in cancer patients is a trait or a state cannot be answered by these studies. <i>Conclusions:</i> A lack of methodologically sound studies and the large variations of results among studies suggest that the role of alexithymia in patients with cancer deserves more systematic research. Consequently, studies are needed which investigate the nature (state or trait) of alexithymia, its impact on cancer development and progression, as well as its influence on compliance and on the underestimation of psychological distress and psychiatric outcome in cancer patients.