A study conducted by Purdue researchers reveals child abuse and cancer are linked. At this point, researchers don’t understand how the two are tied together, but data collected through surveys show children who are abused are more likely to develop cancer in their adult years.
Through the anylsis of 2,000+ surveys researchers say stress and trauma during the early years of a child’s life can have serious health implications in the future.
“People often say that children are resilient and they’ll bounce back, but we found that there are events that can have long-term consequences on adult health,” said Kenneth Ferraro, distinguished professor of sociology and director of Purdue’s Center on Aging and the Life Course.
“In this case, people who were frequently emotionally or physically abused by their parents were more likely to have cancer in adulthood, and the link was greater when fathers abused sons and mothers abused daughters.”
The more frequent the abuse, the greater the risk of cancer.
The next step
While the study makes a connection, the cause of the connection is still unknown. More research will be needed to understand how abuse causes cancer.
“We would like to see child abuse noted as an environmental factor that can increase cancer occurrence in adulthood. More research on this topic also could help mediate the effects or improve interventions to help abused children,” Ferraro said.
Researchers are now examining potential links between child abuse and other health outcomes, including heart attacks and types of cancer.
“The connection between negative childhood events and mental health is accepted, and these findings reinforce that such events can also have a long-lasting effect on a person’s physical health,” Sociology and Gerontology graduate student Patricia Morton said. “It’s shocking just how much the damage sticks, and it is a reminder that childhood, which is defined by rapidly changing biological systems, is a sensitive period of development.”