Effects of somatic acupoint stimulation on anxiety and depression in cancer patients: An updated systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Tao Wang, Jing Yu (Benjamin) Tan, Li Qun Yao, Cheng Huilin Cheng, Isabella Zhao, Sabina Eliseeva, Mary Janice Polotan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: To explore the effectiveness of somatic acupoint stimulation (SAS) for cancer patients with anxiety and depression. Methods: Thirteen electronic databases were searched systematically until August 2022. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating SAS for anxiety and/or depression in cancer patients were retrieved. Methodological quality of the included studies was assessed by utilizing the Cochrane Back Review Group Risk of Bias Assessment Criteria. Evidence level was assessed by using the approach of Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations (GRADE). Both meta-analysis and descriptive analysis were conducted for outcome assessment. Results: Twenty-eight records were finally included including 22 journal articles and six ongoing registered clinical trials. The overall methodological quality and level of evidence of the included studies were suboptimal, with no high-quality evidence identified. Moderate evidence showed that SAS could significantly decrease the anxiety of cancer patients (Acupuncture: [random effect model, SMD = −0.52, 95% CI = −0.79 to −0.24, p = 0.0002] and Acupressure: [random effect model, SMD = −0.89, 95% CI = −1.25 to −0.52, p < 0.00001]. While for depression, although the data analysis indicated that SAS can decrease depression significantly (Acupuncture: [random effect model, SMD = −1.26, 95% CI = −2.08 to −0.44, p = 0.003] and Acupressure: [random effect model, SMD = −1.42, 95% CI = −2.41 to −0.42, p = 0.005]), relevant evidence was rated as low. No statistically significant difference was identified between true and sham acupoints stimulation for both anxiety and depression. Conclusions: This systematic review provides the latest research evidence to support SAS as a promising intervention for alleviating anxiety and depression in cancer patients. However, the research evidence should be interpreted prudently as methodological concerns were identified in some included studies, and some sub-group analyses were performed with a relatively small sample size. More rigorously designed large-scale RCTs with placebo-controlled comparisons are warranted to generate high-quality evidence. Registration: The systematic review protocol has been registered with PROSPERO (CRD42019133070).

Original languageEnglish
Article number101735
JournalComplementary Therapies in Clinical Practice
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

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