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Research suggests that immune response protects against brain tumor development

they compared medical histories of 830 brain tumor patients matched to a control group of 831 individuals. Within the patient group were 339 cases of glioblastoma (GBM), the most aggressive and lethal type of brain tumor, as well as 117 cases of midgrade anaplastic astrocytoma (AA) and 154 cases of low-grade gliomas (LGG).

The research team considered recent studies that suggest immune system activity in the brain may protect against brain tumor development and that people who have allergies or asthma have a reduced risk of developing a glioma.

"It could be that allergies and asthma produce enough inflammation in the brain to keep immune system cells active, and that this surveillance works to eliminate cancer beginning to develop in the brain," Scheurer says. "So we wondered whether use of antihistamines that counter that inflammation eliminates the protective effect."

They found that, indeed, a history of allergies and asthma was significantly protective for the three different kinds of brain tumors examined in the study. Individuals with the disorders had a 35 percent reduced risk of developing GBM, a 51 percent reduced risk of AA, and a 36 percent reduced risk of LGG.

They also found that participants who used antihistamines were more likely to develop brain tumors. Participants who used antihistamines had three times the risk of developing an AA tumor and two times the risk of developing LGG, compared to those who did not use antihistamines. The risk of developing a GBM was also increased by 26 percent, but that was not statistically significant, the researchers say.

"This suggests that among people who are susceptible, those who have allergies and don't do anything about it may be protected to some degree against brain tumors," Bondy says. "But those who use antihistamines could decrease that protection and increase their risk. The real question is if there are particular gene variants that would make a person susceptib
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2-Apr-2006


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