Allergy sufferers less likely to get cancer
Turns out cancer may be something to sneeze at.
Allergy sufferers are much less likely to get cancer than people who aren’t tormented by runny noses, itchy eyes and coughs, according to a series of surprising new scientific studies.
Texas Tech researchers revealed this month that asthmatics were 30 percent less likely to get ovarian cancer than non-asthmatics. And kids with airborne allergies were 40 percent less likely to get leukemia, according to research published in January by University of Minnesota doctors.
Cornell University experts found reduced rates among lung, skin, throat and intestinal cancers.
“More work is still needed, but the numbers show allergy is a statistically significant protective factor,” said Dr. Zuber Mulla, a Texas Tech epidemiologist who led the ovarian-cancer study.
“Allergies are a general activation of our immune systems,” added Dr. Ronald Crystal, chief of pulmonary and critical-care medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“It’s hard to prove, and I’ve heard some skepticism, but it’s a concept in this field and the studies add to that.”
Evidence on the link has been pouring out in the last few years.
A team at Brigham Young University saw a lower risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and stomach cancer, while Harvard epidemiologists “observed a strong inverse relationship” between brain cancer and asthma, eczema, hay fever or allergy.
Doctors in Toronto concluded, “Having allergies or hay fever was associated with a reduced pancreas-cancer risk” — by as much as 58 percent.
The University of Ottawa found that a “history of hay fever only was associated with a significantly lower risk of pancreatic-cancer mortality, and a history of asthma only was associated with a lowered risk of leukemia mortality.”
Some experts believe that people made miserable by pollen and other allergens have advanced immune systems and when they sneeze out irritants in the air, they also rid themselves of cancer-causing toxins.
But there’s nothing scientists can do to help people without allergies.
They can’t replicate a hypersensitive immune system, and even if they could, medical ethics would prevent doctors from purposely triggering allergy symptoms, which make sufferers miserable and present short-term health threats.
For those who do have allergies, some researchers have suggested not taking medicine, but Crystal thinks that’s a bad idea.
“It’s better to treat your allergies, which can be pretty serious and in rare instances fatal,” he said.
He also warned that those with allergies shouldn’t assume they have no chance of getting cancer.
“There are a lot of other factors, including smoking and obesity, that contribute to cancer risk.”