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Allergies are the body's defence against cancer, say scientists

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 2:03 AM on 03rd November 2008

Most people with allergies consider them a nuisance at best while more serious cases can be life threatening. 

But scientists now claim that they have an upside.

Hay fever and eczema could be your body's defense against cancer. 

Allergy symptoms, like sneezing or a runny nose, get rid of foreign particles in the air, which may be carcinogenic, the researchers say.

They may also act as a warning that alerts us know when there are damaging substances in the air that should be avoided. 

In fact, lead researcher Paul Sherman, from Cornell University in New York, and his team warn that taking drugs to suppress allergies could be a bad idea.

Experts have long suspected that allergies may be linked to cancer, but until now the evidence has been unconvincing.

Some studies found that cancer patients were less likely to have allergies, while other trials found the opposite. 

In the latest study, Sherman and team examined the results of almost 650 studies performed over the past five decades. 

Overall, cancer patients had fewer allergies than people free of cancer, they report. 

The association was strongest for people with cancers that come into contact with material outside the body, such as cervical cancer, skin cancer and tumors of the throat and colon.

Likewise, only allergies with symptoms linked to the outside of the body, such as eczema, hay fever and animal and food allergies, were less common in people with cancer. 

Breast and prostate cancer and myeloma, which are isolated from the external environment, showed much weaker associations, the scientists report.

Given the concerning results, Sherman and team call for studies to test whether turning off the body’s allergic reactions with antihistamines and other suppressants will actually do more harm than good. 

They told The Quarterly Review of Biology: ‘We hope that our work will stimulate reconsideration of the prevailing view that allergies are merely disorders of the immune system which, therefore can be suppressed with impunity.’
 


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