Early cancer detection through handwriting analysis

“Handwriting is brain writing.” Graphologists explain that the brain is the director of both our physical and mental activity. Just as our writing reflects our personality, it also reflects certain deviations in our physiology.

It is generally accepted in medicine that certain neuromuscular coordination disorders occur with the development of cancer. Since handwriting constitutes the tracing of neuromuscular coordination, the microscopic features of handwriting strokes become an important method for investigating human neuromuscular development.

Alfred Kanfer, born in Austria and later imprisoned with his wife in the Dachau concentration camp, is considered the pioneer of the graphological neuromuscular test for determining groups at high risk of cancer. He had an impressive 84 percent accuracy rate in detecting the disease through handwriting.

What the Kanfer test does is apply a neuromuscular tool to determine the presence or absence of such typical neuromuscular disorders. The Kanfer test alone does not determine the presence or absence of cancer; it determines a factor associated with cancer.

Alfred Kanfer was released from Dachau; he emigrated to the United States. He was an outsider in the field of medicine – with a method of identifying cancer prone individuals that was so highly unorthodox that he had to fight a tough uphill battle to prove his method and find acceptance for it.

What is surprising is the cooperation he received from many prominent doctors and hospitals during his more than thirty-five years of work.

The Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York, the Preventive Medicine Institute-Strang Clinic in New York, the Equitable Life Assurance Society, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and the American Cancer Society provided financial and material support for Kanfer’s work. Their patients’ handwritings were submitted to him for analysis.

The heartbeat”

Graphologists have determined that certain writing breaks, small breaks in the up and down stroke, especially in looped letters, can indicate heart disease. They call this fraction a “heart tick” and find it mainly in the lowercase letter h

Another sign is abnormal dots while writing “trail”

While writing, a person with a heart condition – often accompanied by shortness of breath – instinctively rests the pen on the paper, as one would with a cane while walking.

Dr. Ulrich Sonnemann, a major contributor to the early development of professional graphology in the US whose book Handwriting Analysis as a Psychodiagnostic Tool (Grune & Stratton, 1950) is highly respected in the field, confirms that a disturbed pattern of strokes may be indicative of heart disease . Sonnemann adds that the specific weaknesses and incomplete ataxia (the inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements), which are characterized by partial dotted lines in the course of strokes, were discovered at very early and clinically undetected stages.

Variations of normal handwriting

The most important principle in graphology is to analyze the difference between a person’s handwriting and how they were taught to write. There are many shades of instructional technique in the script, all of which would be classified under ‘variations of normal handwriting’. When the writing differs in such a way that the writer was definitely not taught this way, that difference is analyzed. The “normal” writing sample is provided as a basis for comparison.

1. Marked difference between down and up pressure in regular order during a given writing sample.

Characteristics: Downstrokes are wider and show a greater ink density than upstrokes.

All downward strokes in a given script are approximately the same width, and so are all ascending strokes.

2. Elasticity of strokes.

The width of downstrokes gradually increases towards the baseline, where they connect with the upstrokes, and at the same time the upstrokes thin out slightly along their course.

3. Uninterrupted flow of motion through down and up strokes.

Features: Uniform, even ink density over entire length of down and up strokes (1 and 2). Continuous, unbroken and immovable delineations of down and up strokes (1 and 2).

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4. Uninterrupted flow of motion through the transition area

Features are as above.

Of particular importance is the uninterrupted connection of downward and upward strokes, which requires a maximum degree of neuromuscular coordination and is therefore paramount.

Finding cancer in the early stages

A startling example of the accuracy of cancer diagnosis through handwriting analysis is the case of Mrs. B. By medical standards, Mrs. B. appeared to be healthy from the date of her first handwriting sample to the date of the third. A year after the date of her third sample, at age 41, an advanced cancer was found and she died at age 42.

The following examples are photomicrographs of Mrs. B.’s handwriting.

The first was written at twenty-eight, the second at thirty-three, and the third at forty.

The first example shows the typical criteria of normality, that is, a mature neuromuscular disease with a normal range of coordination. Normality is reflected in the smooth, continuous flow of motion, both in the downstroke and the upstroke (even flow of ink through the strokes and sharp, continuous delineations on both sides of each stroke). The strokes have an oval shape; the bends from descending to ascending strokes are narrow, curved and show continuity of motion throughout.

A regular pattern of heavier (wider and darker) descending strokes and lighter ascending strokes predominates throughout the sample.

The second example shows a clear change. While the general pattern of heavier descending strokes and lighter ascending strokes is still preserved, the narrow twists are gone, the writing spreads widely, the strokes are much weaker and very unstable, and clear segmentations are seen in most ascending strokes .

(Segmentation means that the continuity of the movement is interrupted and the direction of the stroke wavers on microscopic examination.) Clear breaks between descending and ascending strokes are also visible.

The third example shows a breakdown of each stage of the writing process.

The strokes are stiff or shapeless. The pressure is uneven, sometimes too heavy and in other strokes too light. There are clear breaks between descending and ascending beats, and both types of beats show distinct low-amplitude, high-frequency segmentations.

“With these (and many such) findings, it was demonstrated for the first time with statistical significance that the manifestations of cancer in handwriting precede the manifestations of cancer by clinical symptoms.” (Bulletin of the Hospital for Joint Disorders, April 1, 1958)


While Kanfer’s handwriting test was remarkable, he made some blunders along the way, which had to be corrected. While he was able to clearly separate the healthy handwriting from the handwriting that indicated cancer or heart disease, he erred by diagnosing a significant number of heart cases as positive for cancer. In later studies, with tightening of the cancer criteria, this cause of error was practically eliminated.

A second error involved improper use of materials and surfaced when three tests were conducted under the auspices of the American Cancer Society. The first and third tests varied between 84 and 98.4 percent in the accuracy of cancer detection.

The second study was the only one to fail. It was performed on samples collected at a cancer detection center in Detroit. The reason for this failure, as it was later determined, was faulty technical facilities. The patients were required to write with a hard glass plate as a writing aid and to use a stiff fine-tipped pen, a combination that rendered the finer segmentations in the stroke virtually invisible even to the microscopic equipment then available.

When this error was recognized, some changes were made to the microscopic technique and some samples were reexamined. Kanfer’s results were then considered “very good” by the Cancer Society. Nevertheless, this failure set his work back many years and showed the importance of technical considerations in research.

Unresolved questions

Many questions remain unsolved. What about the problem of handwriting “testing positive” when there is no medical diagnosis? What effects does that information have? What psychological damage can it do if there is no detectable cancer to treat?

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This problem affected Kanfer himself. He went to the doctors at Strang Clinic to tell them that he saw positive indicators of cancer in his own handwriting. They couldn’t find the cancer until three weeks before his death.

Although graphology’s strength lies primarily in personality evaluation, in which it is accurate to 98 percent, the statistical significance attributed to the Kanfer test remains high. The need for more research is essential.

Author’s Note: Do not attempt to diagnose yourself or others using this technique. It takes a professional to recognize the nuances of change in a handwriting sample.