Allergy Drugs

Your May 18 article on the possible relationship of cancer growth in mice to the antihistamines loratadine, astemizole and Atarax is of interest, but need not be of concern to allergy sufferers. There is published data showing that cancer occurs less commonly in individuals with allergic disease, indicating that histamine, the chemical that causes sneezing and running of the nose, may protect against tumor growth. Other articles refute the concept that individuals with allergies have less cancer. Antihistamines have been used in man for over 50 years and are considered to be among the safest medications. Numerous cold remedies contain antihistamines as well. Nonetheless, multiple studies have not revealed an increase in cancer prevalence in allergic patients.

The most concern for the results of the study reported should be for mice injected with tumors by cancer researchers, and not for allergy patients seeking and receiving welcome symptomatic relief. If we allowed animal research to dictate drugs used in humans, penicillin would never have been produced. When injected into guinea pigs, penicillin produces paralysis and death. It has saved lives of hundreds of millions of humans since World War II.


Director, Asthma and Allergy Center


Huntington Memorial Hospital