Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by bronchoconstriction that is reversible, airway inflammation resulting from edema in the lining of the bronchial tubes, and increased airway responsiveness to a variety of stimuli. Symptoms usually occur during the first five years of life in 65 percent of the patients. A key feature of the disease is a hyper-responsiveness of the airways to various triggering stimuli, which causes the airways to react to irritation with severe bronchospasm and inflammation, resulting in symptoms of wheezing, shortness of breath, and tachycardia. Researchers are finding that gene mutation may increase asthma risk. They are also finding that a lack of H. pylori in children increases their risk of developing asthma.
If you have an allergy, your body’s immune system has been programmed to treat a particular substance in food or the environment as an enemy. Defending us against harmful substances is part of the immune system’s job. With allergies, the immune system reacts to a substance that, for the non-allergic person, is completely harmless. Allergens can be environmental, chemical, or food-based. Hay fever, for example, is an allergic reaction to pollen. Why do some people have hay fever, while everyone else can breathe in pollen particles with no problem? Because the immune system in the hay fever sufferer sets an allergic reaction in response to pollen molecules that come in contact with sinus passages.
Based on the findings of two recent studies, it appears that people suffering from allergies or asthma are much less likely to develop certain cancers. One study, conducted at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, included 1,582 women with ovarian cancer and two control groups which included 4,744 women with upper limb bone fracture and 21,380 women diagnosed with acute myocardial infarction. The results revealed that asthma sufferers were 30 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer than non-asthmatics.1
A second study sought to determine whether allergies could be protective against certain cancers, which included leukemia. The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of associations between atopy/allergies, asthma, eczema, hay fever, and hives and childhood/adolescent leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) using ten case-controlled studies. The results from the meta-analysis revealed that children with allergies to airborne substances were 40 percent less likely to develop leukemia than other children.2 The researchers suggest that since allergies and asthma boost the immune system it may offer some protective benefit in warding off more serious illnesses like cancer.
1 Elmasri WM, Tran TH, Mulla ZD. A case-control study of asthma and ovarian cancer. Arch Environ Occup Health. 2010;65(2):101-5.
2 Linabery AM, Jurek AM, Duval S, et al. The association between atopy and childhood/adolescent leukemia: a meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2010;17(7):749-64.