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Women with Allergies have a greater risk of Blood Cancers

Update Date: Nov 23, 2013 10:40 AM EST

In one of the first studies to examine the different effects that allergies have on sexes, the researchers found that women in particular appeared to have a greater risk of blood cancers if they had airborne allergies. Airborne allergies come from plants, grass and trees. The researchers reported that this relationship, however, was not found in men, which suggests that a gender-specific role tied to allergies stimulates the immune systems differently.

"To the best of our knowledge, ours is the first study to suggest important gender differences in the association between allergies and hematologic malignancies," wrote first author Mazyar Shadman, M.D., M.P.H., a senior fellow in the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reported by Medical Xpress.

Shadman, Emily White, Ph.D. of the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch and colleagues borrowed the data from the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort. This study recruited men and women between the ages of 50 and 76 from western Washington. The participants had provided information on three major health risks collected via a 24-page questionnaire. The three categories were health history and cancer risks, medication and supplement use, and diet. The participants also included data on age, race, ethnicity, education, smoking, and other lifestyle factors. Allergies included mold, dust, animals, insect bites, foods and medications.

The researchers were able to use the information of over 66,000 out of 79,300 people from the VITAL study. The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) cancer registry was able to provide the researchers with information on cancer diagnoses and deaths. The researchers reported that 681 of the people during the follow-up of a median of eight years had hematologic malignancy. Out of these people, the researchers reported that they were more likely to be men with a family history of leukemia or lymphoma. These men tended to rank their own health status as low and were less active. The team also reported that women with a history of airborne allergies had a higher risk of developing hematologic malignancies.

"If your immune system is over-reactive, then you have problems; if it's under-reactive, you're going to have problems. Increasing evidence indicates that dysregulation of the immune system, such as you find in allergic and autoimmune disorders, can affect survival of cells in developing tumors," Shadman said.

The study was published in the American Journal of Hematology.

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