• childhood physical abuse;
  • childhood maltreatment;
  • adverse childhood experiences;
  • adult health behaviors;
  • adult socioeconomic status;
  • childhood stressors



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.


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%.


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.


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. Cancer 2009. © 2009 American Cancer Society.