• cancer;
  • health behaviors;
  • social-cognitive processing;
  • optimism;
  • PTSD;
  • social desirability;
  • internet research


The physical and psychosocial ‘health’ behaviors of cancer patients have become a more pressing issue as 5-year survival rates continue to rise. This study investigated: (a) the extent of positive change in four psychosocial behaviors and two physical health behaviors, (b) the role of psychosocial predictors (drawn from theories of Social Cognitive Processing and optimism) in positive behavior change after cancer diagnosis and treatment, and (c) the possible influence of social desirability in reports of positive psychosocial and physical behavior change. The behavior showing the greatest positive change was time spent reflecting on life priorities; the behavior that was least likely to change after diagnosis and treatment was exercise. Optimism, social support, and cancer-related intrusions were positively associated with increases in physical health behaviors. Only optimism was positively associated with increases in psychosocial behaviors. Reports of positive change in physical and psychosocial behaviors were only modestly correlated. Social desirability was unrelated to reports of positive behavior change. Results are interpreted in light of theories of adaptation to cancer diagnosis and treatment. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.