A recent study adds weight to researchers’ findings that a connection may exist between allergies in humans and a lower incidence of a serious cancer that initially develops in the brain. While the study implied an overall reduced risk of the development of these cancerous tumors, preliminary results suggest that the cancer resistance seems to be more prevalent in women. It should be noted, however, that men with certain allergic combinations also appear to have a lower risk of contracting this type of cancer.
Scientists have known for decades that an allergy is an indicator of an immune system overreacting to certain stimuli. It is also known that these particular types of tumors, call “glioma”, can suppress a person’s immune system, effectively disarming the body’s defense system and allowing the cancer to spread. For years, researchers have been trying to determine whether the presence of allergies has served to deter the formation of glioma or, inversely, whether the tumors have worked to short-circuit the immune system’s reaction to allergens.
In the course of this study, blood specimens collected from glioma patients years before being initially diagnosed, were analyzed with impressive results. Persons who had antibodies related to allergies had a 50% decreased risk of developing glioma, as compared with those who had no such antibodies indicative of allergies.
Scientists pressed belief that the significant amount of elapsed time between collection of the specimen and diagnosis of the tumor was crucial for results that reveal whether the tumor was the aggressor rather than the allergens.
Since the advent of cancer, as well as the presence of allergies, are representative of an anomaly in the immune system of the affected person, it is reasonable to surmise that a conflict could exist between the two. For the study to be effective, the aggressor, as well as the reactor, had to be identified. Either the tumor was the aggressor, causing the allergen antibodies to react, or the allergen antibodies (which are already supercharged by nature) were the aggressors that inhibited the formation and growth of this deadly cancer.
In the past, it was impossible to conduct a study in this manner, due to the lack of blood samples from subjects from a period of time greater than 20 year before the diagnosis of glioma. Before this study, scientists had to rely on information provided by patients, the accuracy of which could not be verified.
An additional finding suggests that specific allergen antibodies, found in blood samples of women, had an additional lower risk of at least 50% for the development of glioblastoma, a type of glioma which is the most serious, and most frequently seen tumors. Interestingly, this particular phenomenon was not observed in the male subjects; yet, it should be noted that male blood specimens contained both specific and unknown allergen antibodies had a 20% lower risk of glioma than those who tested negative for these antibodies.
Approximately 60% of tumors diagnosed in adults are glioblastomas, which are a particularly deadly form of cancer. It is estimated that approximately 3 in 100,000 people will be affected by this disease with grim survival rates. Patients who undergo aggressive treatment generally survive approximately one year. Of those surviving beyond one year, only about 25% live approximately two years, with less than 10% surviving to the five-year mark.
This study was made possible by the country of Norway, whose Janus Serum Bank allowed Schwartzbaum and her colleagues access to samples from 594 glioma patients, 374 of which had been diagnosed with glioblastoma . These specimens, collected from patients undergoing other tests, as well as volunteers for the study, had been preserved for 40 years. Norway has also recorded all new instances of cancer diagnoses since 1953, cataloguing in detail to prevent duplicate testing. For purposes of comparison, 1,177 samples from persons free from glioma were also studied. According to Schwartzbaum, being able to conduct this study over a period of 40 years between the time of obtaining specimens to diagnosis of tumors, provided a unique opportunity to observe the chemical interaction between the two instances, revealing the distinct possibility that allergies provide the immune system with hypersensitivity to thwart the formation of glioma tumors or glioblastoma.