Individuals with allergies have a heightened Th2 (T helper 2) immunity which may provide advantages in controlling tumor growth. Inverse associations have been reported among individuals with allergies and risk of brain and pancreatic cancers.
We examined the relationship between allergies and risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) in a population-based case-control study with 1014 cases and 1193 frequency-matched controls. Logistic regression models were used to estimate odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) controlling for age, sex, race, smoking history, alcohol consumption, and education. In addition, in a subset of the population, models were adjusted for HPV16 status.
Individuals with allergies had a 19% lower risk of HNSCC (OR = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.67-0.98). Associations with allergies were stronger for laryngeal (OR = 0.66, 95% CI = 0.45-0.97) and oropharyngeal (OR =0.73, 95% CI=0.57-0.92) cancers, while no association was observed for oral cavity cancers (OR = 0.98, 95% CI = 0.76-1.26). History of asthma was not associated with overall HNSCC, but the association was statistically significant for oropharyngeal cancer (OR = 0.67, 95% CI = 0.44-0.99). HPV16 status did not confound or modify the associations with allergies.
Elevated Th2 immunity in individuals with history of allergies and asthma may reduce the risk of HNSCC. Additional research into related mechanisms may provide new insights into how to treat HNSCC.
These findings may provide new insight into biological pathways that could lead to a better understanding of the etiology of this disease.