Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fevers and Cancer

As a follow up of sorts to the Are Fevers Paleo? post, it turns out that there's an epidemiological relationship between fevers and cancer:
"Since the 19th century, it has been repeatedly observed that spontaneous cancer regressions were coincided with acute infections and the cancer patients had a remarkable disease-free history before the onset of cancer [1]–[4]. In the 20th century, an inverse association between infectious diseases, particularly febrile ones, and cancer risk has also been consistently found for malignant melanoma and glioma using modern epidemiological methods [1], [3], [5]–[7].

"With the widespread introduction of antibiotics and antipyretics since the beginning of the last century, however, the critical role played by fever has often been overlooked, resulting in considerable changes to the clinical course and magnitude of the immune response that develops following acute infections [1], [8]. These changes may be part of the reasons for the substantial increase in the age-adjusted incidences or mortalities of malignant diseases during the early part of the last century in western countries [9] and in the late of the last century in China [10]. It has been observed that every 2% reduction in infectious disease mortality was followed by a 2% increase in cancer mortality over a 10-year interval from 1895 to 1963 in Italy [9]."
Medicine, like Economics, is full of unintended consequences. It wouldn't surprise me at all to discover that messing with the immune system messes with the immune system in unexpected ways...