This longitudinal study examined the long-term impact of a diagnosis of cancer on physical and psychological functioning, by comparing 8-year cancer survivors (n = 206) to a randomly selected sample of similar-aged references without cancer (n = 120) in the Netherlands. Comparisons were made at three fixed points in time: 3 months (T1), 15 months (T2), and 8 years (T3) after diagnosis. The results showed that, at 8 years after diagnosis, cancer survivors and references do not differ significantly in the level of depressive symptoms, anxiety, life satisfaction, self-esteem, social support, and marital satisfaction. However, survivors reported more physical symptoms, and those with a recurrence of cancer also reported more limitations in household and social activities. Most improvements in functioning were found in the year following diagnosis. Intriguingly, we found no evidence that cancer survivors experienced more positive changes in the self, relationships, or life in general than references, even though many cancer survivors attributed these changes to the cancer experience. In the discussion, we address the role of finding positive meaning in the process of adjustment to cancer. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.