Early Childhood Adversity in Adult Patients with Metastatic Lung Cancer: cross-sectional analysis of symptom burden and inflammation

Lung Cancer

Brain Behav Immun. 2020 Aug 10:S0889-1591(20)31361-1. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.08.006. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: Psychological and physical symptoms commonly occur in patients with metastatic lung cancer and are associated with reduced quality of life and decreased survival. Previous work has associated these symptoms with inflammation. The experience of Early Childhood Adversity (ECA) is linked to chronic inflammation and may identify adult cancer patients who are at-risk for psychological and physical symptoms. We thus hypothesized that ECA in lung cancer patients would be associated with increased psychological symptoms (distress, anxiety, and depression) and physical symptoms and that this relationship would be explained by inflammation.

METHODS: Patients with metastatic lung cancer (n=92) were evaluated for ECA using the Risky Families Questionnaire. Concomitant assessments were made of distress (Distress Thermometer and Problem List [DT&PL]), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7), depression (Patient Hospital Questionniare-9), physical symptoms (DT&PL), and inflammation (C-reactive protein [CRP]). Multivariate models were created to explain associations of ECA with depression, anxiety, distress, number of physical problems, and inflammation.

RESULTS: ECA was associated with distress (r=.24, p=.03), anxiety (r=.30, p=.004), depression (r=.35, p=.001), greater physical problems (r=.25, p=.03), younger age (r=-.29, p=.006), and elevated CRP (r=.22, p=.04). Multivariate analyses of outcomes found that depression severity was independently explained by both ECA and inflammation (β=.37, p=.001) but not distress or anxiety, while controlling for age and sex. Number of physical problems were also associated with ECA (β=.35, p=.004) but not inflammation. The association between ECA and physical problems was not significant after controlling for depression.

CONCLUSION: ECA is associated with increased depression and physical symptoms independent of inflammation. Moreover, depression appears to mediate the impact of ECA on physical symptoms. ECA may identify patients at risk for psychological and physical symptoms.