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This study aimed to determine the effects of cognitive emotion regulation strategies on depressive symptoms in women with breast cancer.Five hundred and nine women with breast cancer completed a demographic survey, the Chinese version of Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ-C), and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) at the initial assessment (T1). One month later (T2), 504 patients completed the CES-D. Patients were assigned to four groups: H-H (CES-D scores ≥16 at both timepoints), H-L (CES-D score ≥16 at T1, <16 at T2), L-H (CES-D score <16 at T1, ≥16 at T2) and L-L (CES-D scores <16 at both timepoints).Over 80% patients had mild or no depressive symptoms at both timepoints. There were significant group differences in cognitive emotion regulation strategies. CERQ-C subscale scores for adaptive strategies were higher, and scores for maladaptive strategies were lower among patients in L-L and H-L groups than among those in H-H group. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that cognitive emotion regulation strategies at T1 differentiated depressive symptoms at T2, accounting for 56.5% of variance after controlling for sociodemographic and biological variables and baseline levels of depression. Greater acceptance, positive refocusing, and positive reappraisal at T1 were associated with fewer depressive symptoms at T2.Cognitive emotion regulation strategies accounted for considerable variance in depressive symptom scores 1 month later. The strategies of acceptance, positive refocusing, and positive reappraisal may be beneficial for women with breast cancer. Intervention studies are needed to confirm if these associations are causal. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.