If you're a male with asthma, did you know that this condition could actually be good for your health? Researchers now believe this is true—at least when it comes to reducing your risk of being diagnosed with some of the most common forms of cancers.

The Asthma and Cancer Relationship

You may find it hard to believe that there's anything positive about the wheezing, chest discomfort, and difficulty breathing that typically occurs during an asthma attack. But the very mechanism that causes these uncomfortable symptoms may also play an important role in preventing cancer in men. This finding comes from a study conducted by Canadian scientists that was included in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in May 2010.

Looking for Connections

To determine how asthma and cancer intersect, the researchers looked at data from 3,800 men compiled over a seven-year period from 1979 to 1986. About 3,300 of the participants were diagnosed with various types of cancers, including those of the stomach, lungs, prostate, bladder, lymph nodes, and skin.

In addition to looking for connections between asthma and cancer, the scientists also considered an allergic skin condition called eczema to see how this, too, corresponds with cancer risk.

The Data is In

The findings revealed that overall, men with asthma had a decreased risk of being diagnosed with a variety of different cancers. Furthermore, men with asthma had a lower risk of stomach cancer than their counterparts, while men diagnosed with eczema were less likely to suffer from lung cancer.

Yet while the reduced cancer risk associated with asthma and eczema was hard to miss, exactly why this protective benefit exists was much less clear. One hypothesis is that the highly-sensitive immune system that causes asthma, eczema and other allergic responses may also be essential to fighting off potentially dangerous cancer cells before they take hold and spread. More research is needed, though, to better understand this relationship.

Reduce Your Cancer Risk

In the meantime, you probably want to do whatever you can to reduce your own cancer risk. While you can't self-select having allergies, asthma or eczema (and probably wouldn't want to anyway), the American Cancer Society recommends that you can  ward off cancer by making some smart lifestyle choices, such as:

  • Stop smoking and avoid second-hand tobacco exposure
  • Eating a balanced diet with an emphasis on plant-based foods and low fat options
  • Staying active on a regular basis
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Protecting yourself from the sun's harmful rays by using sunscreen or covering up
  • Following the recommended guidelines for cancer screenings that your doctor can give you based on your age, sex and risk factors
  • Getting immunized against viral infections that can be associated with cancers, such as Hepatitis B and Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Whether you have asthma or not, these small steps can have a big impact on reducing your risk of getting sick.



American Cancer Society


Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology