The Gift of Contact Allergies

Allergies may be protective against some cancers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Allergy sufferers may actually be blessed with a protective barrier from certain cancers thanks to their "ready to attack anything" immune systems.

One scientific hypothesis holds that people who have allergies -- and very sensitive immune systems -- are less likely to develop cancer.

A recent study indicates that people with contact allergies -- reactions caused by skin-to-skin contact with substances like metals, latex and chemicals -- may have a highly reactionary immune system that can ward off breast cancer, non-melanoma skin cancer in both sexes and brain cancer in women.

"Allergies may be a secret blessing fighting cancer."

While it is too soon to assume a clear cause-and-effect relationship with "touch" allergies and cancer protection, the  authors recommend further studies to include factors like social class and smoking.

Only then, scientists may understand the relationship more fully and possibly new cancer prevention techniques will be developed.

The study initially involved 17,000 Danish adults who were patch tested for contact allergies between 1984 and 2008. The participants were tracked via a national cancer registry to ascertain their long-term health status.

From the initial screening, 35 percent tested positive for at least one contact allergen. Women tested positive at a higher rate -- 41 percent -- while 26 percent of the men did.

Of the 17,000 participants initially patch tested, around 20 percent had developed either a non-cancerous or a malignant tumor. Of the group that did develop a tumor, 38 percent also tested positively for a contact allergen.

Interestingly, the analysis also found that those in the contact allergies group had higher rates of bladder cancer. The authors surmise this may be the result of higher levels of chemical metabolites in the blood.

Previous research has shown an association between touch allergies and cancer, but experts were unsure if the allergies might also be beneficial for protection against cancer. According to this research, they may.

This research published today in the online only title BMJ Open.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 10, 2011
Last Updated:
July 14, 2011