Children who have been emotionally maltreated and experienced a stressful life event had poorer immune response to basal cell carcinoma tumors, according to study results.
“Early adversity not only affects our mental health later in life, but can have profound influences on our physical health as well,” study researcher Christopher P. Fagundes, PhD told Healio.com.
Fagundes and colleagues from Ohio State University’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research collected data on 91 patients aged 23 to 92 years who had a previous basal cell carcinoma (BCC) tumor. The researchers said they chose to study patients who previously had a BCC tumor to determine what causes subsequent tumors that occur within 3 years in almost half of the people after they develop BCC.
The researchers examined four mRNA markers extracted from patients’ BCC tumor tissue: CD25, CD3E, ICAM-1 and CD68. “The mRNA markers encode for proteins that are expressed on various immune cells,” they wrote.
Detailed interviews were conducted to evaluate severe life events in the patients’ past year using the life events and difficulty schedule (LEDS), which can measure more than 200 stressful events. Raters — masked to participants’ emotional or subjective reaction to the life stressor, their health, BCC mRNA levels and clinical data — judged the severity of each reported life event. The researchers also assessed patients’ history of parental emotional maltreatment using the childhood experience of care and abuse questionnaire (CECA.Q).
Linear regression analyses were conducted to determine the associations between parental emotional maltreatment, severe life events and the degree of the patients’ immune response.
Among patients with BCC who had experienced a severe life event within the past year, those who were emotionally maltreated by their mothers (P=.007) or fathers (P=.02) had a poorer immune response to the BCC tumor, according to the researchers.
“Those in the top 25% of maltreatment by their mothers saw a 350% reduction in immunity compared to those in the bottom 25% of maltreatment,” Fagundes said in a press release.
The researchers found that emotional maltreatment alone was unrelated to immune responses to a BCC tumor, and depressive symptoms were not associated with local tumor immune response.
Fagundes and colleagues said troubled relationships between parents and their children can negatively affect the stress response system, and early life adversity has been associated with subsequent dysregulated immune function in adults.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.