Lower prevalence of positive atopic skin tests in lung cancer patients

Chest. 1988 Feb;93(2):241-6. doi: 10.1378/chest.93.2.241.


Allergy prick skin testing was performed on 137 newly diagnosed patients with primary lung cancer and 137 age-(+/- 3 years) and sex-matched randomly selected control subjects. We also compared 38 patients with lung cancer and 38 of their closest in age, same-sex siblings. Demographic data, personal, medical, smoking and occupational histories were obtained by personal interview. We skin tested these individuals with a standard battery of seven common allergens and a diluent control. Fewer patients (35.8 percent) than control subjects (58.4 percent) responded with one or more positive skin reactions (p less than .005). There was no significant difference between patients (27.8 percent) and control subjects (37.2 percent) responding to more than one allergen. Fewer of the 38 sibling-matched patients had one or more positive skin tests (23.7 percent) than did their siblings (55.3 percent) (p less than .01). There were fewer patients with greater than one positive skin test (15.8 percent) than sibling control subjects (42.1 percent) (p less than .025). There were no differences in smoking pack-years between patients and siblings. Historic evidence of allergy was greater in both control groups compared to their matched cancer groups; p less than .05 for community controls, p less than .005 for sibling control subjects. These findings raise the possibility that atopy, by either immunologic or nonimmunologic means, protects against development of lung cancer, or alternately, that lung cancer affects immunologic status as gauged by (type 1) skin sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Allergens
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Hypersensitivity / genetics
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Random Allocation
  • Skin Tests*
  • Smoking / immunology


  • Allergens