The sneezing, sniffling and congestion of allergies is pure misery with a silver lining. If you have allergies, you may live a few years longer and have a decreased risk of getting cancer.
Researchers have found that individuals with allergies (hay fever, eczema or asthma) have more vigilant immune systems which often misfire at common, everyday substances, like pollens, house dust and dander. Normally, immune response is a good thing when directed at viruses and bacteria. But for those with allergies, allergic reactions occur because of this heightened immune response.
Everyone has a natural defense against cancer but the observant immune systems of allergic people are more primed and ready to attack at the first sign of tumors or cancer cells. The result is people with allergies have less cancer or fewer types of cancers than those who don’t have allergies.
Between 1984 and 2008, researchers in Denmark studied 17,000 adults, who had common contact allergies, for their investigation into what they called the “Immune Surveillance Theory” (allergic individuals have more observant immune systems).
Individuals for the study were located by matching up allergy test results with the Denmark National Cancer Registry which had recorded all diagnosed cancer cases since 1943. Some individuals were followed for three decades.
The conclusion from their studies was that having allergies was associated with a strong protective effect against cancer. This same study has lead to the inference that allergic individuals might end up living longer because they are better able to control cancer with their immune systems.
This may be small consolation the next time you are mopping up your watery eyes, wiping your drippy nose and suffering in misery on the couch. Instead, you may be thinking your symptoms are a pretty high price to pay for a longer life. I, for one, will be doing everything I can to try to make my longer life a little less miserable.