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This research focuses on the coping behavior of older adult, long-term cancer survivors. Specifically, it identifies the personal (including race and gender) and illness/treatment characteristics of survivors that are significantly associated with the use of specific coping styles: planning, acceptance, venting, denial and seeking social support. It also examines the mediating role that these forms of coping play in terms of psychological distress: anxiety, depression and cancer-related worries. Multivariate analysis of data from a random sample of 321 long-term survivors in a major cancer center tumor registry is used to address the above issues. The most prominent forms of coping used by long-term survivors were planning and acceptance; least used were venting and denial. Increased age was associated with lower use of all forms of coping, but cancer type was not. Denial as a form of coping was associated with higher anxiety, depression and cancer-related worries. While race was not found to be a significant predictor of coping style, it was a significant predictor of three dimensions of psychological distress, anxiety, depression and cancer-related worries, with African Americans exhibiting lower levels of distress than Whites. The relevance of these findings for health and social service practitioners is discussed. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.