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If you asked a group of people if they would like to increase their number of allergies, you’d probably get a unanimous “No!” But when it comes to the health of your brain, you might be surprised to learn more allergies may be a good thing.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found a relationship between how many allergies a person has and the risk he or she will develop a certain type of tumors called gliomas. Gliomas are tumors in the brain that develop from glial cells, which are part of the supportive tissue in the brain. Most brain tumors develop when glial cells become cancerous. In other parts of the body, a growing tumor can push nearby tissue out of the way to make room as it grows. Tumors that grow in the brain are trapped inside the skull which means there is no room for the brain to move aside. Gliomas in the brain kill or damage nearby brain cells as they grow.
The University of Chicago researchers compared information reported by patients about their allergies and use of antihistamines with their risk of developing gliomas. The research confirmed previous studies that found a relationship between allergies and gliomas and further determined that allergies seem to protect the brain from developing gliomas.
They also concluded that the more allergies a person has, the greater the protection for the brain. Having different types of allergies also provided increased protection, including seasonal allergies or hayfever, and allergies to pets, medications, food, and other substances. Other factors including the use of antihistamines, the age the allergy was first diagnosed, and how many years since the allergy was diagnosed did not appear to have an impact on the risk of developing gliomas.
Allergies are a reaction by the body’s immune system to something in the environment. When the immune system senses an allergen, it produces antibodies to fight off the allergen to protect the body. Bridget McCarthy, Ph.D., a research associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health was part of the study team.