By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – We know that there are long-term effects of child abuse: both physical and psychological. But an article in The Archives of General Psychology is quite surprising. It finds that childhood stresses can affect skin cancer risk.

Here is the theory: neglect or abuse before the age of seventeen lowers the immune response for life.

These researchers looked at 91 men and women who had basal cell carcinoma, a fairly benign form of skin cancer and the skin tissue was examined for chemical clues about the intensity of a person’s immune response. The participants were then evaluated for their relationships with their mothers.

There are those who challenge the report saying that the information is much too specific and the generalizations are much too broad. But I think there is indisputable truth that extreme stress can affect the immune system and impact people later in life.

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