How asthma protects (yes!) you from cancer



My family has a history of asthma. One of my sons is suffering from wheezing and eczema. How can I say that these are good things to have, that they are actually blessings in disguise.

But that is actually what this recent study by French Canadian researchers tells me. Their findings show that men who suffer from eczema had a lower risk for developing lung cancer. And those who suffer from asthma have a lower risk for developing stomach cancer.

But how can one health condition provide protection against another more serious condition? Study author Professor Marie-Claude Rousseau of the INRS–Institut Armand-Frappier explains:

Asthma and eczema are allergies brought about by a hyper-reactive immune system – a state which might have enabled abnormal cells to have been eliminated more efficiently, thereby reducing the risk of cancer.”

The researchers actually looked at exposures to occupation hazards and the risk for getting cancer. They checked 3000 male participants who have been diagnosed with cancer and compared to 512 people who did not have cancer. They specifically looked at the link between allergies and the incidence of the 8 of the most common types of cancer.

It is ironic to think that a bothersome condition such as allergy can have some benefits. Especially as both cancer rates and allergy rates are on the rise.

A recent estimate gives us the following figures: Allergy rates in the Western world in 1980 were 10%. Today it is 80%. Should this give us hope that our body is fighting back against cancer? It is really too soon to tell.

The study authors wrote:

These findings contribute important knowledge to population health and provide new research leads. Although the study did not allow to identify which specific factors related to asthma and eczema were responsible for reducing the risk of cancer, it offers new angles for research into the molecular and immunological mechanisms that are involved in immunostimulation, a potentially promising strategy for cancer prevention.

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  1. Richard Friedel says:

    A relevant but strangely ignored or not generally known fact about asthma and breathing troubles is that the change between weak (asthmatic) and strong (healthy) breathing is dependent on abdominal muscle tension. Slackening the muscles here causes abysmally weak and asthmatic breathing. Instead of describing an asthma attack as being like breathing through a straw (57,00 Google hits), attempting to breathe vigorously with relaxed abdominal muscles provides a more genuine illustrative example. Training the muscles, for example by “abdominal hollowing” (see Web articles) produces an antiasthmatic effect. Abdominal muscle tension plays a prominent part in Asian martial arts.

    So it is fair to assume that there is a natural breathing spectrum with an asthmatic tendency at one end and Ku Fu or Karate breathing at the other end. For a few words on the Japanese version of Asian breathing see www.lrz.de/~s3e0101/webserver/webdata/OBT.pdf

    I personally tend to breathe asthmatically after an evening meal or in pollen-laden air. Breathing powerfully into my lower abdomen with tensed muscles provides an effective cure for me. But then I’ve always been sceptical about medical wisdom on asthma: such a paradoxical and doctor-baffling increase in the last 40 years with modern, merely symptomatic inhalers. Respectfully, Richard Friedel

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