The immune system is responsible for helping the body heal itself after illness or injury, and to defend the body against attack from pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and molds, and cancer cells that multiply too rapidly.
In some overly sensitive people however, the immune system may mistakenly view harmless substances, allergens (e.g., peanuts, pollen, dust mites, pet dander), as putting the body at risk of infection.
In response to an attack, the immune system produces large immune molecules called antibodies, immunoglobulins, along with smaller immune co-factors to help in the fight.
Individuals with allergies tend to have higher levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a class of antibody. IgE attaches tightly to special immune cells called mast cells. They are found in the skin and linings of the intestine, eyes, and nasal passages. Mast cells play a pivotal role in host defense, inflammation, and tissue repair.
Mast cells are pre-loaded with inflammatory factors. At the body’s next exposure to the allergen, the allergen binds to the IgE, like a key going into a lock, and triggers the release of mast cell biochemicals such as histamine, and small immune factors such as cytokines.
A number of studies suggest that men and women with allergies are at a lower risk of developing glioma, a brain cancer. Gliomas are among the most common and most rapidly growing brain tumors. Men and women with moderately higher levels of IgE, compared to clinically normal individuals, had statistically significant lower probabilities of developing gliomas.
However, as is usually the case in biology, more is not always better. Individuals with significantly elevated levels of IgE were not at a lower risk for developing malignant gliomas.
Look for future postings on the role of inflammation and cancer. Any search will reveal that inflammatory responses play major roles at different stages of tumor development. Since the relationship of inflammation, cancer, and immunological responses are under study, it is best to let the body do what it does best, and that is protect us from illnesses.
To optimize health, immune homeostasis, immune balance, is essential.