The relationship between fears of cancer recurrence and patient gender: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Chuan Pang*, Gerald Michael Humphris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
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A significant concern for patients treated for cancer is fear of cancer recurrence (FCR). Although a common experience, some patients report high levels of FCR that are difficult to manage and result in over vigilant checking and high use of health services. There has been speculation about the relationship of FCR with gender with mixed reports from several systematic reviews.

To determine the association of FCR with gender in previous reported studies and investigate the strength of this relationship with various moderators including year of publication, type of cancer and measurement attributes of self-reported FCR instruments.

A systematic review was conducted with searches of the literature from the MEDLINE, PubMed, Embase, and PsycINFO databases following PRISMA guidelines. All the included papers were divided into two groups, namely: ‘pure’ that comprise only of patients with cancer types that both men and women can contract and ‘mixed’ that report on patients with a variety of cancer types. The association between gender and FCR level was assessed by meta-analysis. A meta-regression was performed to investigate the moderating effects of factors including: the year of publication, cancer type, mean age of the sample and the length of the FCR scale measurement. This review was registered with PROSPERO, ID: CRD42020184812.

Finally, 29 studies were included. The N size of pooled participants was 33339. The meta-analysis showed females to have an overall higher level of FCR than males (ES = 0.30; 95% CI, 0.23. 0.36). The meta-regression of moderating or control variables found little, if any, systematic variation in effect-sizes.

This systematic review has clarified a potentially confused pattern of previous results in understanding the relationship between gender and FCR. Women report higher levels of FCR than men and this feature is one that clinicians and researchers can factor into their practice and future studies. The effect size is moderate, hence there is ample variation in FCR level, independent of gender, that requires further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number640866
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2021


  • Cancer recurrence
  • Fear
  • Meta-analysis
  • Gender
  • Demographic characteristics


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