Are you one of those unfortunate souls who suffers from allergies? Do you shudder at the thought of spring time, with all its budding flowers, new growth and pollen flying through the air? Can’t visit Aunty Annie’s house because of the cat dander? Have to ask the ingredients of every cookie for traces of nuts, eggs, or wheat?

Well you may actually be one of the lucky ones! Your immune system’s sensitivity may be protecting you from contracting brain cancer.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago asked over 1,000 hospital patients about their allergy histories. Astonishingly, patients who had high-grade glioma, a form of brain cancer, reported significantly less allergies than those without the cancer. This double negative is a bit tricky to interpret, so flipping this statistic on its head: having allergies reduced the likelihood of having brain cancer!

And it doesn’t stop there. The researchers also found that having more than one allergy provides even more protection. As the team leader, oncologist Bridget McCarthy, stated: “The more allergies you have, the more protected you were.”

But don’t be alarmed if you don’t have allergies; brain tumors are still very rare and this is just a preliminary finding from a small study sample.

The intriguing question now becomes, “Why?” How does an overactive immune system protect against cancer? We know that our body’s immune system launches attacks on foreign cells, such as tumor cells, so maybe this is where the answer lies.

Read the paper here.

Read more about our body’s immune response to cancer in the “Avoiding Detection” section of Inside Cancer here.