Health & wellness

Benefits of music among cancer patients

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Dana-Farber music therapist Brian Jantz with Phoebe Davis, 4.

A team of researchers, led by Joke Bradt, associate professor in creative arts therapies at Drexel University, reviewed 30 studies of cancer patients and the use of either music therapy or prerecorded music. Here’s what was concluded from the research, which included a total of 1,891 people. The results were published by the Cochrane Collaboration in August:

Music may help:

- Reduce anxiety

- Relieve pain, with a moderate effect


- Reduce heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure by a small amount

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- Improve quality of life, according to two studies

Music did not have a clear benefit on:

- Depression

- Fatigue

- Physical status


- Other factors, for which there was not enough study, including distress, immune function, and communication

A caution:

Most of the studies carried a high risk of bias, in part because participants could not be blinded to whether they were receiving music therapy or part of a control group not receiving the treatment. Also, for many factors tested, participants were asked to report on subjective outcomes, such as their anxiety level or mood. The authors urged caution in interpreting the results.