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For around one in five of us, hay fever is an annual scourge that can ruin spring and summer. Some 13 million Britons suffer runny noses, incessant sneezing and itchy or streaming eyes triggered by pollen.
But for all the discomfort it brings, could there be an unexpected upside to hay fever (or allergic rhinitis, as doctors call it)?
New - Research - Sufferers - Cancers - Season
New research suggests sufferers may be significantly less likely to develop certain cancers than those who breeze through the season unaffected by pollen-induced misery.
The study, by a team at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, found rates of cancers of the throat, gullet, cervix and tonsils were reduced by up to a third in patients with a history of hay fever, compared with those who do not suffer.
Findings - Studies - Benefits - Allergy
The findings come from one of the largest studies ever to investigate the possible anti-cancer benefits of the common allergy.
They back up other, smaller studies carried out since the link between hay fever and protection against cancer was first made more than a decade ago.
Researchers - People - US - Cancers - Hundreds
The researchers monitored nearly 1.7 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with different cancers between 1992 and 2013 and compared them with hundreds of thousands of tumour-free volunteers of a similar age and sex.
They then matched hay fever rates in both groups and found significantly more cases among the cancer-free group.
Study - Journal - Cancer - Epidemiology - Biomarkers
The study, reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, also found asthma was linked with a small reduction in liver cancer risk.
Quite why hay fever, out of all the common allergic conditions, might have this effect is still not clear — nor why the condition seems to reduce the risk of some types of cancer and not others.
Theory - Hay - Fever - Allergies - Promotes
But one theory is that hay fever, more than other common allergies, promotes something called immune surveillance — in which the...
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