A team of researchers have recently discovered a link between risk of blood cancers and airborne allergies in women. It’s worth noting that the team didn’t discover such an association in men. This could suggest a likely gender-specific characteristic in immune system, which leads to the increased risk of hematologic cancers. The findings are to be published in the American Journal of Hematology next month. In general, the role of immune system in triggering cancer has become an important scientific interest within the medical community. Health disorders could happen on people with under-reactive and over-reactive immune system. Increasing evidences indicate on people with dysregulated immune system. Such a situation could happen on people with autoimmune and allergic disorders; and this could affect how cells grow in developing tumors.
A further study showed that allergies to trees, grass and plants have strong association with mature B-cell neoplasms. Participants with allergies related to animals, such as dogs and cats; may also have higher risk of plasma-cell neoplasms. It is a condition where our body produces too many plasma cells, both in non-cancerous and cancerous conditions. When researchers stratified the data by gender, they found that the blood cancers incidence associated to allergens was elevated only in women. It’s not yet known how this could happen. It may be easy to speculate that the statistical significance on women are cause by their lower baseline hematologic malignancies risk compared to men; however there’s an alternative biological explanation says that there are hormonal effects on the interactions with carcinogenesis and the immune system.
The analysis of data also takes into account any kind of confounding factors including self-reported health status, history of lymphoma, level of exercise, consumption of fruits and vegetables, smoking habits, education, ethnicity/race and more importantly, gender.
However, like with many similar studies, researchers need to deal with a number of limitations. They need to solicit answer about known types of allergies and rely on participants to self- report the allergies. Researchers need to interpret risk estimates cautiously, because there are limited cases in each hematologic cancer sub-type.
Overall, additional studies could be necessary to analyze link between increased risk of blood cancer among women and airborne allergies. It should be re-affirmed if the link is really the strongest on people with allergies to trees, grass and plants. It’s important to asses why results can be very different in men and identify the actual gender-specific roles in women.