Allergy and brain tumors in the INTERPHONE study: pooled results from Australia, Canada, France, Israel, and New Zealand



A history of allergy has been inversely associated with several types of cancer although the evidence is not entirely consistent. We examined the association between allergy history and risk of glioma, meningioma, acoustic neuroma, and parotid gland tumors using data on a large number of cases and controls from five INTERPHONE study countries (Australia, Canada, France, Israel, New Zealand), to better understand potential sources of bias in brain tumor case–control studies and to examine associations between allergy and tumor sites where few studies exist.


A total of 793 glioma, 832 meningioma, 394 acoustic neuroma, and 84 parotid gland tumor cases were analyzed with 2,520 controls recruited during 2000–2004. Conditional logistic regression models were used to obtain odds ratios (ORs) and 95 % confidence intervals (CIs) for associations between self-reported allergy and tumor risk.


A significant inverse association was observed between a history of any allergy and glioma (OR = 0.73, 95 % CI 0.60–0.88), meningioma (OR = 0.77, 95 % CI 0.63–0.93), and acoustic neuroma (OR = 0.64, 95 % CI 0.49–0.83). Inverse associations were also observed with specific allergic conditions. However, inverse associations with asthma and hay fever strengthened with increasing age of allergy onset and weakened with longer time since onset. No overall association was observed for parotid gland tumors (OR = 1.21, 95 % CI 0.73–2.02).


While allergy history might influence glioma, meningioma, and acoustic neuroma risk, the observed associations could be due to information or selection bias or reverse causality.

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Funding for the INTERPHONE Study was provided by the European Fifth Framework Program, ‘Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources’ (contract QLK4-CT-1999901563), the International Union against Cancer (UICC). The UICC received funds for this purpose from the Mobile Manufacturers’ Forum and GSM Association. Provision of funds to the INTERPHONE Study investigators via the UICC was governed by agreements that guaranteed INTERPHONE’s complete scientific independence. The terms of these agreements are publicly available at The Australian center was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (EME grant 219129); BKA was supported by a University of Sydney Medical Foundation Program Grant. The Cancer Council NSW and the Cancer Council Victoria provided most of the infrastructure for the project in Australia. The Canada-Montreal data collection was funded by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (project MOP-42525). Additionally, JS’s research team was partly funded by the Canada Research Chair programme and by the Guzzo-CRS Chair in Environment and Cancer. The other Canadian centers were supported by a university-industry partnership grant from the CIHR, the latter including partial support from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. The CIHR university-industry partnerships program also includes provisions that ensure complete scientific independence of the investigators. DK is the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Chair in Risk Science at the University of Ottawa. Additional funding for the study in France was provided by l’Association pour la Recherche sur le Cancer (ARC) (contract 5142) and three network operators (Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom). The funds provided by the operators represented 5 % of the total cost of the French study and were governed by contracts guaranteeing the complete scientific independence of the investigators. In New Zealand, funding was provided by the Health Research Council, Hawkes Bay Medical Research Foundation and the Cancer Society of New Zealand. The authors would like to acknowledge Jordi Figuerola (CREAL) for programming and database management support. The Australian team would like to acknowledge the overall support given to study design and implementation by Michael Besser and Andrew Kaye; and to thank fieldwork staff in Melbourne—Monique Kilkenny, Georgina Marr, Tracey McPhail, Fiona Phillips, Hayley Shaw, Yvonne Torn-Broers; and Sydney—Matthew Carroll, Sally Dunlop, Virginia MacDonald and Elizabeth Willows—the many interviewers for their hard work, and the NSW and Victorian Cancer Registries for aiding case identification. We also thank Angus Cook (University of Western Australia) and Neil Pearce (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) who, together with Alistair Woodward, were responsible for the conduct of the INTERPHONE Study in New Zealand. The Canada-Ottawa center gratefully acknowledges the work of Lynn Pratt and Daniel Bedard for their leading roles in study coordination. The Canada-Montreal team acknowledges Louise Nadon and the diligent work of fieldwork staff including Marie-Claire Goulet, Sylvie Plante, Sally Campbell, and the interviewer team. The following hospitals and physicians in Montreal permitted access to their patients: CHUM Hopital Notre-Dame (Dr Wieslaw Michel Bojanowski, Dr Jean Jacques Dufour, Dr Francois Lavigne, Dr Robert A Moumdjian); Neurological Institute of Montreal (Dr Rolando Del Maestro, Dr Richard Leblanc); Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal (Dr Marc F Giroux); The Jewish General Hospital (Dr Gerard Mohr, Dr Jamie Miles Rappaport). The Canada-Vancouver center wishes to acknowledge the work carried out by Dr Alison Pope, Patricia Nelson, Nelson Ha, Dr Kaushik Bhagat and the interviewer team. The French team to thank the French fieldwork team, Mary-Pierre Herrscher, Fatima Lamri, Agnes Boidart, Helene Gire, Juliette Krassilchik, Judith Lenti, Delphine Maillac, Frederique Sonnet, Flore Taguiev, Julie Frantz, France Castay, Florian Gay, for their excellent work. The Israeli team acknowledges the diligent work of the fieldwork and office staff including Etti Aviezer, Tehila Ben-Tal, Meirav Dolev, Yonit Deutch, Tamara Rodkin, Ahuva Zultan and the interviewer team.

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Correspondence to Michelle C. Turner.

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Turner, M.C., Krewski, D., Armstrong, B.K. et al. Allergy and brain tumors in the INTERPHONE study: pooled results from Australia, Canada, France, Israel, and New Zealand. Cancer Causes Control 24, 949–960 (2013).

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  • Asthma
  • Hay fever
  • Eczema
  • Glioma
  • Meningioma
  • Acoustic neuroma