News from Science: Allergy could prevent from some brain tumors.

We got used to thinking that disorders are always bad, they are our enemies, and we should always fight against them. But there are more and more data that some disorders are not so bad. They could actually be helpful sometimes. Recall, for example, vaccinations. They are artificially induced infections that could prevent a few  "big" diseases. It might also true for other medical symptoms.

Allergies and brain cancer.
When I was in medical school and in residency allergies were blasphemed. They have been identified as causes of multiple symptoms from stomach ache to asthma to death from medications. In general all those claims were essentially correct. Many of us know how troublesome allergies could be. A separate field of medicine, call allergology, is devoted to study and fight with multiple allergies. When honeymoon of allergology as a new field was over and it is now a mature respected field of medicine, researchers slowly recognized new facts that allergy is not only a killer-beast, but some time it might do some goods, so allergy might have positive aspects, believe it or not.

Increased activity of the immune system as it in allergic reactions, could actually prevent development of some malignant brain  tumors, according the recent research of scientists from the US and Great Britain. A team of scientists from Harvard University and Saint Thomas Hospital in London examined  charts of 4,500 patients with brain tumors on the frequency of allergies. The hypothesis was that allergies increase the risk for brain tumors. The results, however, were just the opposite. In persons suffering from asthma, atopic dermatitis and polyps, malignant brain tumor glioma developed 30-39% less frequently than in the general population.

Glioma is one of the most malignant brain tumors, and only 3% patients with this affliction are alive after 5 years from the time of diagnosis.

The leading author of this study E. Linos believes that there is a biochemical basis for protective role of allergy. Most probable it is connected with increased activity of cytokines –enzymes responsible for initiating of allergic reactions.

Experiments with tumor cells cultures was demonstrated that cytokines could slow down the growth of aggressive malignant tumor cells. There are also data that allergic reactions did not affect frequency of the benign slow growth tumors like meningioma. Tim Rene, co-author of the study, notes that positive effect of cytokines consists in their ability to slow down the multiplication of malignant cells, but not affect the division of the normal cells.

According to Judith  Schwarzbaum from Ohio University(Columbus), explanation of the positive role of allergies to delay of brain malignancy might be just the opposite: It is known that gliomas could suppress immune activity, and tumors "protect" their "host" from severe allergic reactions.

Allergic reactions could protect the person from malignant brain tumors, or malignant tumors could "protect" from severe allergic reactions their host bodies to prolong lives of their malignant cells, either or, our body has a long chain of events when a small dis-order could contain a big disease, and help to keep body in "order".

We better learn to use it before a "big disease" develops, because the time window when allergy could hold the bigger monster ( in this case brain cancer) is pretty short.

Ref: A. Golbin, A. Umantsev; A small disorder could contain a big disease.

  1. Genn. "Seven Days" Periodical. Health & Medicine. Sept 19, 2007.

D. A. Golbin, Allergy might prevent brain tumors. Sleep and Health, 2008, February.