Five Diseases That Can Stem From Your Childhood

by Allison Bush Editor

A series of recent studies supports the belief that what happens to you as a child may stay with you for the long haul. From poor diet to more traumatic emotional experiences termed “adverse childhood events,” all may have an effect on people developing certain illnesses and chronic conditions as an adult.

Lung Cancer

New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, says women who had been physically or emotionally abused were 1.4 times more likely to smoke. Further, women who had a parent in prison during their childhood were twice as likely to become smokers. This, not surprisingly, also increases the likelihood of lung cancer in later life.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Psychological and emotional traumas experienced over a lifetime may contribute to adult irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to the results of a 2011 study. Research suggests that IBS is caused by changes in the nerves and muscles that control sensation and function of the bowel. IBS is more common in women than in men and is most often diagnosed in people under the age of 50.


Data presented by scientists at the American Headache Society's 2010 meeting suggest that children who experience maltreatment-such as emotional, physical or sexual abuse-are more likely to experience frequent headaches, including chronic migraine, as adults.

Cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes

Researchers believe our pre-natal and early childhood environment influences our risk of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. A study from the University of Calgary says that the food we eat changes how active certain genes in our body are, which affects our metabolism and blood sugar as adults.


Researchers at the University of Toronto have found an elevated rate of cancer in adults who experienced physical abuse as children. The study, published in the journal Cancer, says childhood physical abuse is associated with 49 percent higher odds of cancer in adulthood. The study suggests that the cause could be related to cortisol production–the hormone responsible for fight or flight responses.

Allison Bush
Meet Our Writer
Allison Bush

Allison Bush is a former HealthCentral editor who covered a wide range of health topics.