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.
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.