Childhood abuse and neglect may increase risk for basal cell carcinoma and its recurrence, according to a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

According to the new report, skin cancer patients who were neglected or maltreated by their parents are at a much greater risk for their cancers to return when they face a major stressful event.

"This is the first study to show that troubled early parental experiences, in combination with a severe life event in the past year, predict local immune responses to a basal cell carcinoma tumor," wrote study author Christopher Fagundes, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Ohio State University Medical Center, in Columbus. "This expands the growing evidence that the consequences of early parental experiences extend well beyond childhood."

The researchers looked at 91 men and women who previously had a basal cell tumor. Each of the participants were given a battery of surveys and interviews including questions about their childhood. Researchers also analyzed tissue from their skin tumors for the presence of four types of messenger RNA. They found that skin cancer patients who had a severe, stressful life event in the last year, and who experienced neglect or maltreatment from their mothers or fathers as children, had a substantial drop in their immune response to the tumors.

Specifically, those in the top 25 percent of maltreatment by their mothers saw a 350 percent reduction in immunity compared to those in the bottom 25 percent of maltreatment. Moreover, maltreatment or neglect from the father showed a 140 percent drop in immunity when the top 25 percent were compared to the bottom 25 percent.

[Source:Ohio State University Medical Center]