NEW YORK -

Researchers have an early warning about childhood abuse. It turns out that being mistreated as a child can affect your health as an adult.

Researchers looked at 91 men and women who had been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a fairly benign form of skin cancer.

Their tumor tissue was measured for the intensity of their immune response.

The patients were then tested on their early relationships with their parents.

Writing in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the researchers found that those who had been mistreated by their mothers as children and who had a severe, stressful life event in the past year had a substantial drop in their immune response to the tumors.

The authors say their study suggests that neglect or mistreatment before age 17 sets a lower level of immune response for life leaving people less able to fight off cancers the immune system usually eliminates.