Children abused by their parents are at a high risk of developing cancer in their adulthood, according to scientists.
Researchers from the Purdue Centre on Ageing said that the risk of cancer is "significantly high" when mothers abuse their daughters and fathers abuse their sons.
"People often say that children are resilient and they'll bounce back but we found that there are events that can have long-term consequences on adult health," said Kenneth Ferraro, professor of sociology and director of Purdue.
"In this case, people who were frequently emotionally or physically abused by their parents were more likely to have cancer in adulthood, and the link was greater when fathers abused sons and mothers abused daughters. Overall, the more frequent and intense the abuse, the more it elevated the cancer risk," he added.
The researchers conducted two studies to determine a link between childhood abuse and cancer. More than 2,000 adults took part in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the US.
Participants were not asked directly if they were abused but were asked questions related to childhood discipline.
The study also analysed the effect of childhood misfortunes, such as poverty, loss of parent and family educational status on the physical health of children especially in their later life.
"We started examining a variety of childhood misfortunes, including abuse, and when these were all combined, we found that men with the most 'stressors' during childhood were more likely to develop cancer," said Patricia Morton, researcher at Purdue.
"Second, we found that when children were abused by their same-sex parent, it increased their cancer risk," she added.
Researchers are planning to examine potential links between childhood abuse and heart problems.
"It's shocking just how much the damage sticks and it is a reminder that childhood, which is defined by rapidly changing biological systems, is a sensitive period of development," Morton said.