By Janet Rae-Dupree, Pat DuPree

Do you feel a sneeze coming on the moment you even hear the word “pollen”? Allergies may feel like they simply cannot have an upside, but don’t wish your hay fever away too fast: Two decades of studies suggest your suffering may not be entirely for naught.

When allergies push the immune system into overdrive, they may be doing you a favor — even as they make you miserable. Allergy sufferers are less likely to be diagnosed with cancer, particularly in tissues exposed to the outside environment (skin, lungs, mouth, throat and the gastrointestinal tract, among others).

There are two schools of thought on why:

  • Allergies prompt the production of T cells. And T cells can destroy cancer cells. That’s one theory.

  • Another theory is that allergic reactions serve to engulf potential pathogens in mucous and expel them from the body quickly.