Published Online: August 28, 2014
Atopy is defined as a predisposition toward developing certain allergic hypersensitivity reactions, and is associated with a high risk of diseases such as allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, atopic dermatitis (eczema), and food allergies. Recently, atopy has increased markedly in western populations, and this increasing prevalence warrants investigation into any possible health effects of atopy beyond atopic disease. Notably, despite long-standing interest, it has yet to be determined whether people with atopy or atopic diseases have an altered risk of developing cancer.
In an article recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Skaaby and colleagues investigated the development of cancer in 14,849 atopic and and non-atopic adult Danes. Atopy was measured by a blood test, and the participants were followed for approximately 12 years by linkage to the Danish Cancer Registry. There were a total of 3,994 atopics and 10,855 non-atopics. Among the 1,919 new cases of cancer during follow-up, the authors found no statistically significant associations between atopy and the development of total cancer or specific types of cancer such as breast cancer and lung cancer.
These data do not support the hypothesis that atopy is associated with an altered risk of total or specific cancer, although small effects of atopy on specific types of cancer cannot be excluded. As reported by this study, risk of cancer may not be of particular concern for people with atopy, which is reassuring as atopic disease is becoming more frequent.
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.