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Documentary reveals connection between childhood trauma and cancer


SAN ANTONIO - Childhood trauma can sometimes have a lasting impact, leading to emotional and mental problems that linger into adulthood.

New research shows Adverse Childhood Experiences, known as ACES can also have an impact on an adult's physical health.

The documentary, "Resilience, the Biology of Stress, the Science of Hope," will be screened during Dream Week.

The film reveals the more ACES you experience as a child, the greater your odds are for serious disorders and disease later in life.

"What the research showed us was that there was a dose response relationship between the number of adverse childhood experiences and the liklihood that an adult will suffer from certain chronic diseases, like cancer, heart disease and certain mental illness," said San Antonio Metro Health Department Director, Dr. Colleen Bridger.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

1. Verbal Abuse

2. Physical Abuse

3. Emotional Abuse

4. Physical Neglect

5. Emotional Neglect

6. Parent with Mental Illness

7. Parent with Drug/Alcohol Addiction

8. Family Member Incarcerated

9. Mother Physically Abused

10. Abandoned by Parent

"Most of us have one, but they found out as the number of these adverse childhood experiences went up that proportionally all these chronic conditions went up too," said Voices for Children President, Dr. Kathy Fletcher.

There is evidence the architecture of the brain changes when it's continuously exposed to toxic stress.

"When your brain is programmed as a child to see the world as a traumatic place, then you're in that constant trauma induced state," Bridger explained.

According to Dr. Bridger, that in turn can affect cortisol levels.

"Basically increases inflammation throughout your body which is bad for your heart, your lungs, all of your lymph system, which is why we see that connection to heart disease and obesity," Dr. Bridger said.

In the documentary the message is simple; The brain may forget, but the body doesn't.

The goal is to increase awareness for those who may be at risk, so they can work toward prevention.

"If we can intervene while the brain is still developing, we can re-program that bad development back to the normal development that can help a person live a long healthy life," Dr. Bridger said.

Whatever the reason for the risk for heart disease, diabetes or various types of cancer, the prevention recommendations are the same.

"Exercise, eat a low fat diet, manage your stress; all of those things still apply even if the reason you're at high risk was because of toxic stress during childhood," Dr. Bridger said.

In dealing with stopping the trauma to the body and mitigating the impact on the body, Dr. Bridger recommends therapy and developing coping mechanisms.

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