Allergies, Asthma May Protect Against Brain Cancer
Study Shows a Genetic Link Between the 2
WebMD News Archive
Another possibility, she says, is that the immune response that is triggered
in people with asthma and allergies helps protect them against the brain
cancer. This is just speculation, but Schwartzbaum says the implications of
such an association would be great.
"If this is the case the question becomes, 'How aggressively should you
treat these conditions?'" she tells WebMD. "Obviously, people can die
from asthma. It is a serious disease that needs to be treated. But it could be
that a little bit of hay fever may be a good thing."
So how could the same genetic variants promote one disease while protecting
against another? Inflammation may hold the key, Schwartzbaum says. It turns out
that the same cytokines that cause allergy- and asthma-promoting inflammation
in the lungs inhibit inflammation in the brain. Less inflammation may mean less
NCI researcher Peter Inskip, ScD, was a co-researcher of the agency's 2002
allergy and brain cancer study. He tells WebMD that the link has now been seen
in multiple studies, "which lessens the likelihood that it is due to chance
"We cannot rule out the possibility that allergies or asthma are
directly protective," he says. "However, other possibilities should be
considered. A possible protective role of medication taken for allergies and/or
asthma needs to be evaluated further."
The NCI is continuing its research on allergies, asthma, and glioblastomas,
"We know very little about the etiology of brain cancers, most of which
are gliomas," he says. "The findings concerning allergies/asthma that
have emerged over the last few years provide one of the most promising leads
that we have. It is extremely important that researchers pursue this lead in
order to better understand the biological basis of the association."