Background: Conflicting results have provided support for two distinct and contradictory hypotheses: (i) allergy has a protective effect against cancer by enhanced immune surveillance, and (ii) allergy is associated with an increased risk of cancer by chronic immune stimulation. We therefore aimed us to perform a large epidemiological study with a defined allergic disease cohort.
Methods: During the years 1988-2000, 70 136 patients tested for total serum immunoglobulin E (IgE) and 57 815 tested with Phadiatop for diagnosing allergic disease at Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, were linked with the Swedish Cancer Registry for a virtually complete follow up with regard to cancer.
Findings: The total number of observed cancers was normal in the total serum IgE-cohort; standardized incidence ratio (SIR) = 0.98 (95% CI: 0.92-1.04) and in the Phadiatop-cohort: SIR = 0.99 (0.92-1.06) independent of the level of IgE and positive or negative Phadiatop. Specific analysis was done for cancer of the lung, cervix, pancreas, lymphoma, and nonmelanoma skin cancer. None of these forms of cancer had increased risks.
Interpretation: The study does not support the hypothesis that allergy has a protective effect against cancer, nor does it support an increased risk.