Allergic women at higher risk of hematologic cancers – study

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Immune system and cancers may be intrinsically linked, new findings suggest.

The study, conducted by the researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), found that a person’s compromised immune system may put her at an increased risk of developing cancers.

The association was most pronounced in women and was strongly linked to those having a history of airborne allergies, researchers revealed.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers assessed health records of nearly 66,000 people enrolled in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) study.

The participants, aged between 50 and 76 years at the start of the study, mainly resided in western Washington.

The participants had completed a questionnaire detailing their health history, cancer risk factors, medicines and supplements used if any, and dietary habits.

The researchers also culled data for family history of leukemia or lymphoma and any history of allergy, including allergies to plants, mold, dust, animals and insect bites, and foods and drugs.

The participants were followed for 8 years. During the follow-up span, 681 cases of hematologic malignancy were diagnosed.

“These participants were more likely to be male, to have two or more first-degree relatives with a family history of leukemia or lymphoma, to be less active and rank their health status as low,” study’s first author and lead researcher, Mazyar Shadman, said. “A history of allergies to airborne antigens was associated with a higher risk of hematologic malignancies. The most statistically significant association was seen with allergies to plants, grass and trees.”

Furthermore, a history of grass, tree or plant allergy strongly linked to mature B-cell neoplasms, a major form of lymphoma. On the other hand, animal-related allergies increased the risk of plasma-cell neoplasms.

But these allergens spurred the risk of blood cancers only in females, researchers indicated. The findings are to first to suggest that there exists a “possible gender-specific role in chronic stimulation of the immune system that may lead to the development of hematologic cancers.”

The findings of the study which currently appears online will be published in the December issue of the American Journal of Hematology.

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