Allergies: you’re in luck!

The arrival of spring causes many inconveniences for people who suffer from allergies. These people, however, may find some solace in the results of recent studies showing that allergies significantly reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

The immune system is the set of phenomena that allow us to defend ourselves against attacks, whether of pathogenic origin (bacteria, virus), chemical or even traumatic. This system is a veritable armed force made up of “elite squads” bringing together different cells specialized in tasks of neutralizing foreign bodies. Normally, this immune reaction is relatively brief and is limited to the area attacked by an injury or a foreign body (easily spotted in the form of redness, swelling or tingling). However, in people with allergies, this immune response is much too great and causes an intense inflammatory reaction that manifests itself in various unpleasant symptoms (respiratory disorders, eczema, hives). In some serious cases, the foreign body (the allergen) can even put the person’s life in danger by blocking the airways or causing cardiac arrest: this is called anaphylactic shock.

Cancer lures our immunity, even more so if it is weakened

In addition to its essential action against external aggressions, it has long been suspected that the immune system could also recognize the cancer cells that form in us and participate in their elimination. Moreover, it is now well known that in order to progress, cancer must absolutely develop the ability to deceive the immune system and thus avoid being destroyed as soon as it appears. In this sense, deficient immunity represents an important risk factor for cancer: for example, studies have shown that the suppression of the immune system, for example during organ transplantation, promotes the appearance of certain cancers. Same phenomenon in people who become immunocompromised following serious illnesses, for example AIDS: these patients are affected by very rare cancers, in particular Kaposi’s sarcoma. On the other hand, an over-activated immune system in people with allergies could therefore have important repercussions for the prevention of cancer, despite the many problems caused by allergies.

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Reduced risk of cancer in allergy sufferers

This hypothesis is supported by epidemiological studies. For example, deaths caused by cancer are significantly reduced in people with asthma and in those with seasonal rhinitis (hay fever). This protective effect is particularly pronounced for pancreatic cancer (15%), leukemia (25%) and colorectal cancer (24%). A study shows that this link also exists for gliomas, a type of brain tumor.

Indeed, researchers at the University of Chicago have shown that all types of allergies (allergy to pollen, certain foods, animal hair or drugs) were associated with a spectacular 50% reduction in the risk of this brain tumor.

Even if the mechanisms responsible for these protective effects of allergies need to be better understood, it is interesting to note that certain cells of the immune system, in particular natural killer NK cells, have the mission of attacking abnormal cells (such as cells cancerous). Since the number of these NK cells is much higher in people who suffer from allergies, it is possible that this increased activity of the immune system can destroy cancer cells that form spontaneously in the tissues over time and thus reduce the incidence of cancer. Rare good news for allergy sufferers!


Turner MC et al. An overview of the association between allergy and cancer. Int. J. Cancer 118: 3124-3132.

McCarthy BJ et al. Assessment of type of allergy and antihistamine use in the development of glioma. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 20: 370-378.

* The information and services available on pressesante.com in no way replace the consultation of competent health professionals. [HighProtein-Foods.com]

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