author of Feeding Eden

A Silver Lining: Can Allergies Lower Cancer Risk?

The beginning of the school signals a new set of emotional and logistical challenges for most kids with allergies. With every freedom there is anxiety. This year, the school chef at my son's school decided that he will help my son manage the cafeteria food, even with his multiple food allergies. The man is a saint.
Last year, my son brought his own lunch and it was very isolating given that he was the only child to do so in the entire K-12 school. Of course, my son must: ask questions when in doubt; follow his pre-set guidelines; and exercise his own precautions and self-responsibility. He is six. He wants to eat among and with his friends. So far he is using extreme precaution and learning even more about food than many adults.
But choices have their toll. For one, most of the cafeteria desserts have milk so Eden knows he must pass. It can't be easy to watch everyone eat brownies that you can't have. Also, he is eating less nutritiously (for now) as compared to last year when I packed his lunch. But I believe his spirit is being nurtured so I am determined to overlook that for now.
In light of the ongoing compromise that is our shared life with allergies, it heartening to learn about the possible medical benefits of having allergies. Some recent research indicates that the allergic condition may reduce the likelihood of certain cancers in individuals.
For one, people with one of three Atopic diseases (Hay Fever, Asthma and Eczema) are up to twenty-five percent less likely to contract the most common type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Individuals with all three Atopic conditions see their odds of not having NHL go up to forty percent.
A second example comes from the Harvard School of Public Health where researchers found that Atopic diseases have been linked to a lower risk of Glioma, a type of brain cancer. Patients with a history of allergies again had a forty percent lower chance of having that cancer.
None of the research has proven that the interplay between allergies and these cancers is causal. However the evident inverse effect may encourage more investigation. Considering that allergies are now understood as tied to the immune system and certain cancers may be as well, upcoming studies may shed light on both conditions.