Brain-Friendly

Studies show that allergies protect your brain

Apparently, allergies may have some health benefits! While you may be fed up with sneezing and wheezing, a new study shows that allergies may protect you against certain deadly forms of cancerous brain tumor.

In fact, if you take antihistamines to control your allergy symptoms, the study claims you are completely counteracting this benefit of allergies by raising your risk of developing such tumors.

Before you banish your antihistamine from the medicine cabinet for good, don’t panic! Antihistamines don’t directly cause brain tumors, but when you take them you’re actually reducing the protective effect of your allergies. Therefore, your risk of developing brain cancer is higher than it would be if you didn’t take antihistamines at all.

Before you roll yourself in a nest of ragweed, the increased risk of cancer is still quite small. After all, many millions of us are using antihistamines for a host of allergic symptoms, and we’re not seeing an epidemic of brain tumors. Still, scientists are interested in how the low level inflammation caused by an allergy can keep your immune system on the alert and working hard enough to prevent and reduce your risk of cancer in the brain. Since this positive benefit of allergies was unknown before, it’s noteworthy that taking the standard allergy products like antihistamines can actually counter these positive benefits.

Are the allergic the only ones who see such benefits with certain cancerous brain tumors? In fact they’re not. The results were similar to studies that looked at anti-inflammatory drugs and chickenpox.

Please keep in mind that antihistamine use did not affect all forms of brain tumor. The risk of developing glioblastomas (a deadly form of cancerous brain tumor) was not affected by antihistamines at all. However, people taking antihistamines do have increased risk of other types of lower-risk brain tumors. So, while you increase your chances of some forms of brain tumor, the increase is for types that are more easily treated and carry lower risks.

April 4, 2006
WebMD Medical News

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