Background: Abuse in childhood is associated with many negative adult health outcomes. Only 1 study to date has found an association between childhood abuse and cancer. By using a regionally representative community sample, this preliminary study sought to investigate the association between childhood physical abuse and cancer while controlling for 3 clusters of risk factors: childhood stressors, adult health behaviors, and adult socioeconomic status.
Methods: Regional data from the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan were selected from the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey. Of the 13,092 respondents, 7.4% (n = 1025) reported that they had been physically abused as a child by someone close to them, and 5.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.9-6.6) reported that they had been diagnosed with cancer by a health professional. The regional level response rate was 84%.
Results: Childhood physical abuse was associated with 49% higher odds (95% CI, 1.10-2.01) of cancer when adjusting for age, sex, and race only. The odds ratio decreased only slightly to 47% higher odds (95% CI, 1.05-1.99) when the model was adjusted for all 3 clusters of risk factors.
Conclusions: A significant and highly stable association between childhood physical abuse and cancer was found even when adjusting for 3 clusters of risk factors. Further research focusing on the potential mechanisms linking childhood abuse and cancer is needed.