Allergy and cancer: organ site-specific results from the Adventist Health Study.


Mills PK, Beeson WL, Fraser GE




Am J Epidemiol


The relation between allergy and risk of cancer was evaluated in a cohort study of 34,198 Seventh-day Adventists in California. Information on prevalence of asthma, hay fever, and reactions to chemicals, medications, bee stings, and poison oak (or ivy) was obtained by questionnaire in 1976. The reported allergies must have been serious enough to require treatment by a physician. The cohort was then followed for 6 years (1977-1982). Both stratified analysis and Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were utilized to evaluate the relation of allergy to cancer after taking into account several potentially confounding variables. For all cancer sites combined in males, there was a 33% increased risk associated with reaction to medications. In contrast, among females, reaction to medications was associated with a 21% decrease in risk. Both results were statistically significant. Prostate and breast cancer risk were elevated in persons who reported any type of allergic history, as was risk of lymphatic or hematopoietic cancers and sarcoma. For each of these types of cancer, risk increased with increasing numbers of allergies. However, ovarian cancer risk was decreased in persons with any allergic history and increasing numbers of allergies was associated with decreasing risk of this form of cancer. These results suggest that the association between allergy and cancer is complex and depends on the specific allergy and the specific organ site under consideration.