Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Skin cancer risk linked to maltreatment in childhood


People who are maltreated in childhood may be more vulnerable to skin cancer later in life, especially if they are under a great deal of stress, new research shows.The study is based on an assessment of 91 patients, aged 23 to 91, who previously had basal cell carcinoma, a usually benign form of skin cancer.

They were asked to participate in the research project shortly after being diagnosed with a second case of basal cell carcinoma.

The subjects answered a series of questions about their relationship with their parents when they were children. Tumour tissue samples were also examined for biological markers that indicated how hard their immune system fought the cancer.

Story continues below advertisement

The results revealed that people who were both maltreated as children and recently experienced a stressful event (such as a divorce or the loss of a loved one) had a substantial drop in their immune response to the cancer.

"These are not individuals who suffered severe abuse," noted the lead research, Christopher Fagundes at Ohio State University. "Their parents may have neglected them or were hostile toward them."

The study, published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, shows how fairly common problems in childhood can have a lifelong impact on the immune system, said Dr. Fagundes.

Report an error Licensing Options

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at