New Study: Allergies Linked to Reduced Risk of Brain Tumours

Rebecca Lewis February 11, 2020

 Do you hate it when you inhale even a little amount of dust or when a cat sits beside you? If you think you’re the least fortunate person in the world because you have allergies, think again. Although having allergies can be extremely debilitating for many people, believe it or not, it has benefits too. A new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute supported a growing body of evidence suggesting that people with allergies have lower risk of cancer originating from brain tumours.

Allergy and Cancer

Glioma is a common type of tumour that develops in the brain. It has the ability to suppress the immune system for it to grow and multiply. As this happens, a person develops brain cancer. In a new study, a group of researchers from Ohio State University looked at the stored blood samples at the Janus Serum Bank in Norway, taken from 594 men and women diagnosed with Glioma twenty years ago, between 1974 and 2007. They compared it from the 1,777 blood samples of those who had no glioma.

Researchers measured the levels of two types of protein in the blood called immunoglobulin E (IgE). It’s a group of antibodies produced by white blood cells that stimulate the immune system’s responses to allergens. Specific respiratory allergens identified in the study include tree pollen, dust mites, plants, horse, cat and dog and dander, and mold. They also analysed the relationship between the risk of glioma and the allergen-specific IgE.

They study shows that blood samples containing allergy-related antibodies are 50% less likely to develop glioma than those who had no symptoms of allergy.

The possible reason for this is, according to lead author Judith Schwartzbaum, associate professor of epidemiology at the University, people with allergies have higher levels of antibodies circulating in their body and stimulating the immune system, preventing the development of glioma. So far, the absence of allergy is the biggest risk factor of glioma. However, more research needs to be done to establish the link between glioma and allergies, she explained.

The researchers also found that women whose blood samples tested positive for certain allergy antibodies have 54% lesser chance to develop glioblastoma – the most common type of glioma tumours. And although such antibodies weren’t seen on men, those who were tested positive for both known and unknown antibodies were 25% less likely to develop tumours in the brain than those who were tested negative. The reason for the disparity between the amount of risk between men and women is still unknown, reported Schwartzbaum. What the study can conclude however is that people with respiratory allergies could have protective line of defence against glioma.

In future studies, Schwartzbaum plans to investigate the relationship between cytokines, chemical messengers that suppress or promote inflammation and risk of brain tumours.

People with glioblastoma can survive for up to 5 years. Some patients who had chemotherapy, brain surgery, or radiation (and other medical treatments) are able to survive for at least one year after the treatment. Some make it until two years and only a few (less than 10%) survive for five years.