Children who have suffered from physical abuse have elevated rates of cancer in adulthood, according to new research.
The study shows those individuals physically abused in childhood are more likely to develop cancer than those who have not been abused.
“Childhood physical abuse is associated with 49 percent higher odds of cancer in adulthood,” says Esme Fuller-Thomson of University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Department of Family and Community Medicine.
The study’s findings showed the association between childhood abuse and cancer remained significant even after controlling for three major potentially confounding factors: childhood stressors, adult health behaviors (i.e. smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption) and adult socioeconomic status.
A number of psychophysiological factors could help explain the link between childhood physical abuse and cancer, suggested study co-author and doctoral student Sarah Brennenstuhl.
“One important avenue for future research is to investigate dysfunctions in cortisol production — the hormone that prepares us for “fight or flight” — as a possible mediator in the abuse-cancer relationship.”
Cortisol is frequently referred to as the “stress hormone” and is important to regulate the body’s response to stress. A lack of cortisol’s effects may cause altered or prolonged stress responses.
“Few talk about childhood physical abuse and cancer in the same breath,” says Fuller-Thomson.
“From a public health perspective, it’s extremely important that clinicians be aware of the full range of risk factors for cancer. This research provides important new knowledge about a potential childhood abuse-cancer relationship.”
The study will be published in the July 15 issue of the journal Cancer.
Source: University of Toronto