This study examined the role of number of major lifetime stressors (e.g., rape, abuse), and the perceived resolution of those stressors, in cancer patients' (n = 54) and spouses' (n = 30) appraisals and current mood. We hypothesized that a high number of lifetime stressors, and low resolution ratings, would be associated with more distress and more negative appraisals of the cancer. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that number of lifetime stressors was a positive predictor of patients' ratings of the cancer's threat, and a positive predictor of their spouses' anger. Mean resolution ratings were a significant positive predictor of spouses' positive affect. The findings suggest that experience with previous stressors affects an individual's reactions to cancer.