Exploring Lifetime Experiences of People with Breast Cancer: A Cross-Sectional Study

March 25, 2021
Helané Wahbeh, ND, MCR

Wahbeh, H., Heinz, B., Fry, N., & Wojakowski, M. (2021). Exploring Lifetime Experiences of People with Breast Cancer: A Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of Oncology Research and Treatments, 6(3), 11.


This cross-sectional study explored the relationship between childhood and adult life events, emotional and psychological experiences and breast cancer status. Participants were 2041 women between the ages of 35-90 in the United States-1041 breast cancer patients (cases) and 1000 women who had not had breast cancer (controls). Participants completed a survey on life events and physical and emotional trauma in childhood and adulthood. The data were analyzed with inferential components using primary logistic regression, forward and backward stepwise regression, lasso, conditional inference tree and a random forest. For all models, the association between age at first live birth, major health problems, diethylstilbestrol use, hormone therapy, education, income and race and breast cancer status was consistently significant and they were selected as important predictors for all regression models. Emotional neglect (age 0-7), physical neglect (age 8-18), sexual abuse (age 0-7), experiencing a fire or explosion (age 8-18), exposure to a toxic substance as an adult, assault with a weapon as an adult, severe human suffering as a child (age 8-18 and 19-90) and a competitive environment in childhood and adulthood were associated with increased breast cancer odds. Two life events–a competitive environment and severe human suffering-demonstrated a relationship of first occurring as a child, then again as an adult, with a subsequent breast cancer diagnosis. Overall, the results suggest that adverse events in childhood that are then experienced again in adulthood may increase breast cancer risk. While the study is exploratory and correlative and results should be viewed and interpreted as such, the results warrant further research. These results suggest that emotional and psychological factors should be considered when developing preventative breast cancer strategies.

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