This is a guest post by Derrick Cruise.
For many allergy sufferers, the cold and snow of winter is a welcome reprieve from itchy eyes, runny noses, sneezing and coughing. But those springtime allergies you suffer from every year could protect you from a more sinister illness: cancer.
Of course, there are all kinds of medical studies that result in scary headlines about how various factors can affect cancer risk—and there’s no reason to believe all of them. But there’s a verifiable link between allergies and cancer: recent studies have shown that people with allergies are less likely to develop cancer than people without allergies. The reason could be that the body’s immune system is heightened in people with allergies—their immune systems are always on “high alert,” which helps them fight the cells that develop into tumors.
The allergy-cancer connection: good or bad?
But not all the news is good for allergy sufferers: according to a 1992 study, people with a history of allergies could see an increase in both prostate cancer and breast cancer. Those who suffer from skin diseases like eczema are also at higher risk for blood cancers. It appears that while an immune system that’s always on alert can catch certain types of cancer, other types might slip by the defenses of an immune system that’s fatigued from so much activity.
Short-term relief for long-term health
Allergens are all around us: from fresh-cut grass to cigarette smoke, various chemicals and compounds can affect you differently. But there are ways to avoid the chemicals that make you sneeze and itch—and avoiding those elements can help you stay healthy throughout the year and beyond.
The connection between allergies and cancer is still being explored, but there are irritants that have been proven to increase a person’s cancer risk. If you have allergies to things like smog and cigarette smoke, do what you can to make your home allergen-free. Air purifiers and filters can cut the amount of allergens that find their way into your home.
When you’re outside or in the office, you’ll have less control over the air you breathe—and if your allergies are particularly nasty, wearing a mask might be a good idea, especially if you’re in an urban area with high air pollution. Wearing sunscreen every day—even on cold and cloudy days, eating from glass or BPA-free plastic plates and utensils, and choosing canned food in glass jars are just a few actions you can take every day to reduce your exposure to various allergens and carcinogens. You won’t be able to avoid every irritant—unless you decide to live in a big plastic bubble—but changing a few small parts of your daily routine can make a noticeable difference in how you experience allergies.
The immune system is a curious and complicated thing—and as more research is done on what causes allergies, connections between allergies and other serious illnesses may emerge. The links between allergies and cancer are already helping medical scientists discover how the body works—and the more information is collected and studied, the more we’ll have to fight both allergies and cancer.