Allergies May Keep Brain Cancer at Bay

Glioma risks lower in people who have allergies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Allergies are such a hassle, what with the runny, itchy eyes, nasal stuff and sneezing. Despite the nuisance of this condition, it may have an important cancer benefit.

People who have allergies tend to have a reduced risk of developing a particular type of serious brain cancer called glioblastoma.

"Get help for your allergies - see a doctor."

Judith Schwartzbaum, associate professor of epidemiology at The Ohio State University, was the lead author of a study that examined the links between allergies and lower likelihood of brain tumors called gliomas.

For this study, researchers analyzed stored blood samples from people diagnosed with glioma between 1974 and 2007. The blood samples had been taken decades earlier.

People with more allergy-related antibodies (invader attackers) had a 50 percent lower risk of developing gliomas 20 years later compared to folks who didn't have allergies.

"The ability to analyze blood samples for an immune response related to allergies 20 years before development of brain cancer greatly strengthens the study findings," Keith L. Black, MD, chairman and professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told dailyRx.

"The observation supports mounting evidence that immunity is important to the development, maintenance, and response to treatment for these tumors,” said Dr. Black, who is also director of the Cedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute and the Ruth and Lawrence Harvey Chair in Neuroscience.

For the study, scientists analyzed blood samples from nearly 600 people who were diagnosed with gliomas between 1974 and 2007. These samples were matched by date of blood draw, age and sex with about 1,200 samples from people who did not have the cancer.

“It could be that in allergic people, higher levels of circulating antibodies may stimulate the immune system, and that could lower the risk of glioma,” Dr. Schwartzbaum said.

“Absence of allergy is the strongest risk factor identified so far for this brain tumor, and there is still more to understand about how this association works," she said.

Women with allergies had greater protection than did men, with at least a 50 percent risk reduction compared to man's 20 percent lower risk.

Glioblastomas make up to 60 percent of adult tumors starting in the brain in the United States, affecting an estimated 3 in 100,000 people.

This study was published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

This work was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and a Research Enhancement and Assistance Program grant from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.  No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 5, 2012
Last Updated:
August 10, 2012