20 August 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: Childhood trauma, milk and cancer

This week, disturbing but important research findings demonstrating strong links between childhood trauma and cancer in later life, as well the consumption of milk amongst boys with increased rates of prostate cancer in men. But first:

Thought for the day:
In Australia, over 110,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

What this translates into, is that for every 100,000 people living in Australia, 
450 will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year, 
and 1350 are currently living with cancer.

This is too much! And cancer is a highly preventable disease.

Abused children have higher cancer risk as adults

New research from the US has indicated childhood trauma increases the odds of developing cancer in later life.

The study investigated over 3,000 people and found those who were emotionally or physically abused by their parents on a regular basis were more likely to develop cancer in adulthood.

The results were even more pronounced when fathers abused sons and mothers abused daughters.

Men who experienced greater cumulative stress during childhood were also more likely to develop cancer but this was not true of women, suggesting men and women had different mechanisms for coping with stress, the authors said.

Although early trauma increased the probability of other cancer risk factors such as smoking or excessive drinking, the link between frequent parental abuse remained even after the results had been controlled for a wide range of health and lifestyle issues.

“Although childhood misfortune is currently not a widely acknowledged risk factor for cancer, this study reveals that it should be: some types of childhood misfortune, especially abuse, are implicated in the development of cancer in adulthood for both men and women,” the authors concluded.

In related research, investigators from the Johns Hopkins and Harvard Universities have found cancer incidence is significantly higher among people with mental illness.

Cancer rates were two and a half times greater than the general population for people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, with lung, colorectal and breast cancers a particular problem.

“Clinicians should promote appropriate cancer screening and work to reduce modifiable risk factors ... among persons with serious mental illness,” the authors recommended.

Journal of Aging and Health 2012; doi: 11.1177/0898264312449184

Psychiatric Services 2012; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100169


Obviously anything that helps to alleviate stress amongst families, and enhances their coping capacities is of great importance. This research adds to a myriad of evidence that suggests one of the best things for modern families to do together is to learn and to practice meditation.

Ruth and I have made a Meditation for Children CD that not so many people seem to be aware of; it is available through The Gawler Foundation and many stores.

I am very interested in observations, thoughts, comments you may have on this challenging subject, so please feel free to add your voice via the Comment section below. Maybe share this post with friends - what do they think?

Milk in boys leads to more prostate cancer in men

Researchers have investigated whether early-life residency in certain areas of Iceland marked by distinct differences in milk intake was associated with different risks of prostate cancer.

The study involved 8,894 men born between 1907 and 1935. During a mean follow-up period of 24.3 years, it was found that daily milk consumption in adolescence (vs. less than daily), but not in midlife or currently, was associated with over three times the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer.

The researchers concluded that frequent milk intake in adolescence increases the risk of advanced prostate cancer.

REFERENCE: Torfadottir et al, Am J Epidemiol: 2012 Jan 15;175(2):144-53. Epub 2011 Dec 20.


CD:  Meditation for Children - Ian and Ruth Gawler

1.  Next blog post will be in 2 weeks time.

2. Darwin: The next 'Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing' Program, will be offered in Darwin by Sue Brownlee, from 16 September 2012 on Sundays from 10am - 1pm.

Sue will also be teaching another Beginner's Meditation Program commencing Sunday 23 September for 4 weeks from 2pm - 3.15pm.  A 50% discount applies to those who have previously attended the course, and those who paid for but for various reasons missed some sessions are welcome to come along and catch up. If there is sufficient interest when the Program is finished, the group can continue to meet weekly for meditation until 9 December 2012.

Sue is happy to respond to any queries - please call or email.

Sue Brownlee
Mindful Practice
PO Box 387, Nightcliff NT 0814
P:  0439 498 636


  1. Read with interest. Following my cancer diagnosis the question of family member with cancer was raised. No questions were directed at childhood stresses and in my case abuse or any stresses recently being experienced.

  2. Should we be surprised about the link between childhood psychological trauma and cancer? 20 years ago I first heard of the link between disease and diss-ease from Ian. For many years scientists and authors have translated the science for the lay person. Anyone can learn about it.
    What should dismay us is the attitudes of so mamy in the medical profession who seem to remain entrenched in Descartes dictum which left the mind to the church.
    Or should we question more vigorously what regulations limit the doctors and seek to change these?

  3. It is just so boring to have research keep repeating what we all know from common sense like this link between illness and misery. Those with blinkers don't want to take them off and those without waste too much time trying to change the culture of economic exploitation and scientific fundamentalism.
    One day some one will do a scientific study to discover the link between being an arsehole and being miserable, let's hope that changes the arseholes! But don't hold your breath.....

  4. I was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. I had recently completed a psychotherapeutic retreat to address the childhood trauma (sexual abuse) I had experienced and tried to deny most of my adult life. My immediate thought upon being diagnosed was that this abuse and my attempts to pretend it hadn't happened had eaten away at me. Despite all the reading I've done about possible physical causes eg toxins, alcohol and drug abuse etc, this is still the thing that resonates the most for me. I believe that as long as I allow the emotional and spiritual healing to continue (as well as eat a plant based diet and meditate), I am on the right path for overall healing. Ian, your book articulated and confirmed much of my own instinctive thinking so thank you for that. Love and light.

  5. So many people I have worked with over the years relate most directly to specific stress in their life and the way they responded to it. To me this is good news as it points to what we can do to help turn the thing around - change our way of dealing with stress. Easy in theory, Just takes a little work in practice. All the best with it.
    By the way, attending a residential program really is useful for this. there is the opportunity to get away from day-to-day life , re-evaluate, make plans and actually transform.