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How allergies might prevent brain cancer
Allergies may do more than give you sniffles, watery eyes, and grief — they might also protect against cancer
 
Researchers theorize that people with allergies have "overactive immune systems" that may help stave off cancer.
Researchers theorize that people with allergies have "overactive immune systems" that may help stave off cancer.
Corbis

Allergy sufferers, your suffering might not be in vain. A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago has found that those with allergies are less likely to get a form of brain-and-spinal cancer called glioma. Here, a brief guide:

What did the study find?
Researchers looked at 419 people who were diagnosed with gliomas, the most common kind of adult brain tumors, and 612 healthy people. They found that the healthy patients were more likely to have allergies, and nearly half of those with brain cancer reported having no allergies. The bottom line is that "the more allergies you have, the more protected you were," says researcher Bridget J. McCarthy.

Do allergies protect against other types of cancer?
They might. Other studies have found that those with allergies are less likely to have colorectal and pancreatic cancers, and even childhood leukemia.

Why are allergies and cancer connected?
"We need to do more studies to really get at that underlying mechanism," says McCarthy. It could be that allergies are caused by overactive immune systems that help people stave off cancer.

Can it really be that simple?
Maybe not. The study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship, but simply shows a "possible connection." Plus, it's a relatively small study that reaches conclusions "far beyond the observational data," says Dr. Eugene S. Flamm, the chairman of the neurosurgery department at New York City's Montefiore Medical Center. There have been conflicting reports previous to this study, and the latest research "does not resolve the issue in any way."

Sources: Wired, MSNBC, Businessweek

 

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