People who experience frequent bouts of eczema, contact and allergic dermatitis,
and hives may be a bit more willing to put up with the skin rashes, oozing blisters,
and swelling and redness. A recent study shows a possible link between skin
allergies and a decreased risk for certain cancers.
The study involved approximately 17,000 Dutch adults who were followed by researchers and tested for skin allergies for 23 years. Researchers found that 6000 of the participants testing positive for chemical or metal allergies were at a lower risk for a non-melanoma skin cancer and breast cancer, but at an increased risk for bladder cancer.
While an increased risk for bladder cancer is concerning, the authors of this study are quick to point out that these results don't necessarily indicate all people with skin allergies will have a lower or higher risk for cancer. They state this study simply suggest there is a link between skin allergies and cancer risk. At the same time, the study result offers even more proof of the immunosurveillance hypothesis
.What is the immunosurveillance hypothesis?
Dr. Clifford Bassett, assistant clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone School of Medicine says, “Theoretically, the authors believe skin allergies put the immune system in overdrive, which is called the immunosurveillance hypothesis. This means the immune system may be super-responsive, and perhaps there is some protective function and therefore, the immune system is perhaps more likely to fight off certain things, including cancers.”
In other words, while your body is busy fighting off allergens it may attack whatever it perceives as a danger, including cancer cells.
But what about the increased risk of bladder cancer the study revealed? The researchers believe this could have been due to numerous factors such as smoking, use of hair dye, and the build-up of certain chemicals in the urine.
At the same time there are other experts who believe the results of this latest study are inconclusive. Yet, they concur the study's finding do further our knowledge about how the immune system works. Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, says, “It's an interesting theory. There's a lot we're learning about the immune system.”
Other allergies don't have the same effect on the immune system as skin allergies do. Allergies to ragweed, pollen, and other substances are known as type 1 allergies while skin allergies are classified as type 4. The type 4 allergies involve the T cells, which are involved in destroying tumors.
What causes skin allergies?
Allergies are the result of the immune system’s attempt to defend your body against a foreign (yet harmless) substance. While the immune system is designed to defend your body against dangerous intruders such as bacteria and viruses, sometimes it can't distinguish between a benign substance and a harmful one. In these cases the immune system can become hyper-reactive and attack these innocuous substances called allergens.
The most common skin allergens are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Metals such as nickel and chemicals found in cosmetics and fragrances are also common allergens. That's why skin allergies are much more likely to occur in women - the nickel in jewelry as well as the use of perfumes and cosmetics put them at greater risk.
Doctors diagnose skin allergies through patch testing and about 25 chemicals responsible for skin allergies are tested for. The patches contain chemicals that are applied to the back and analyzed days later. If a rash develops then an allergy exists.
These days allergists are far busier than usual. Allergic diseases are on the rise, yet experts don't really understand why. However, the new study does suggest there is a health benefit of having skin allergies. As sufferable as skin allergies may be, most would agree that anything that can combat cancerous tumors is a good thing.