Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Miseries Of Allergies Just May Help Prevent Some Cancers, Study Finds

Date:
October 30, 2008
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
There may be a silver -- and healthy -- lining to the miserable cloud of allergy symptoms: Sneezing, coughing, tearing and itching just may help prevent cancer -- particularly colon, skin, bladder, mouth, throat, uterus and cervix, lung and gastrointestinal tract cancer, according to a new study.

There may be a silver -- and healthy -- lining to the miserable cloud of allergy symptoms: Sneezing, coughing, tearing and itching just may help prevent cancer -- particularly colon, skin, bladder, mouth, throat, uterus and cervix, lung and gastrointestinal tract cancer, according to a new Cornell study.

These cancers, interestingly, involve organs that "interface directly with the external environment," said Paul Sherman, Cornell professor of neurobiology and behavior, who led the study. He and colleagues analyzed 646 studies on allergies and cancers published over the past 50 years, putting together "the most comprehensive database yet available" on allergies and cancers.

The study revealed "a strong relationship" between allergies and cancer in environmentally exposed tissues, Sherman said. This relationship seldom exists, he noted, between allergies and cancers of tissues that are not directly exposed to the environment, such as cancers of the breast and prostate, as well as myelocytic leukemia and myeloma.

Moreover, the study found that allergies linked to tissues that are exposed to environmental factors -- eczema, hives, hay fever, and animal and food allergies -- were most strongly associated with lower rates of cancers in exposed tissues.

The study, co-authored with Erica Holland '05 (now a medical student at the University of Massachusetts) and Janet Shellman Sherman, a Cornell research scientist and lecturer in neurobiology and behavior, is published in the December issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology (83:4).

"One of our main results was that more than twice as many studies reported inverse allergy-cancer associations as reported positive associations," said Sherman.

Sherman believes that allergy symptoms may help protect against cancer by shedding foreign particles from the body. Some of those particles, he said, might be carcinogenic or carry carcinogens.

"The idea is that the immunoglobulin E system (which is widespread among mammals) and its associated allergy symptoms serve a common prophylactic function," Sherman said, "namely engulfing in mucous and rapidly expelling pathogens, natural venoms and toxins and other potentially carcinogen-carrying antigens before they can trigger neoplasia [the abnormal proliferation of cells]."

Two cancers did not ostensibly fit with the pattern of allergies and lower rates of cancer in environmentally exposed tissues, Sherman noted. However, on closer examination, these "outliers were illuminating." Studies show that allergies are correlated with lower incidences of glioma and pancreatic cancer, which affect internal tissues. However, both glia (which participate in signal transmission in the nervous system, and whose stem cells are exposed to chemicals from the nasal epithelium via the olfactory tract), and pancreatic cells (which can be exposed to intestinal contents if the intervening sphincter malfunctions) "can sometimes come into direct contact with carcinogens from the external environment," Sherman said.

Asthma is linked to higher rates of lung cancer. Unlike other allergies, however, asthma reduces the ability to expel mucus, while other allergies facilitate mucous expulsion and are correlated with lower rates of lung cancer.

The hypothesis that allergies may protect against certain types of cancer because they promote the expulsion of toxins and carcinogen-carrying antigens is also consistent with studies that find that people who express allergy symptoms are less likely to have toxic chemicals in their bodies, Sherman said.

So should people routinely suppress all allergy symptoms with medications? Sherman said the jury is still out. However, allergies are not merely disorders of the immune system, but rather are the evolved front line of defense against certain parasites and cancers. In sum, allergic reactions may be like fevers and morning sickness: uncomfortable responses that survived natural selection because they provided direct benefits.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sherman, Paul W., Erica Holland, Janet Shellman Sherman. Allergies: Their Role In Cancer Prevention. The Quarterly Review of Biology, December 2008

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Miseries Of Allergies Just May Help Prevent Some Cancers, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081029121828.htm>.
Cornell University. (2008, October 30). Miseries Of Allergies Just May Help Prevent Some Cancers, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081029121828.htm
Cornell University. "Miseries Of Allergies Just May Help Prevent Some Cancers, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081029121828.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins