Men may have higher risk of allergies than women, study finds

MADISON, N.J. — A recent Quest Diagnostics "Health Trends Report" released Wednesday raised the possibility that men have a higher risk for allergies than women or that men, as a function of their gender, require different reporting standards when evaluated for allergies with increasingly used blood tests.

Prior research had suggested just the opposite — that women experienced allergies more frequently than men.

"This landmark report … underscores that allergies are a major public health concern and that gender, age and region influence their impact on the health of Americans," Quest Diagnostics chairman and CEO Surya Mohapatra said.

A study of nearly 14 million blood tests for aiding allergy diagnosis shows that men exhibited higher sensitivity to 11 common allergens than women when tested. The combined allergen sensitization rate for the 11 allergens evaluated in the study was approximately 10% higher for men than for women at all ages. The findings contradict other research, including a meta-analysis of 591 studies that found that women make up 65% of adults identified with allergies.

"Our study suggests that allergies in men may not be less prevalent than in women, as suggested by other research, and men may be at risk for underdiagnoses of allergies," said study investigator Stanley Naides, medical director of immunology at Quest Diagnostics. "Additional research will determine whether men truly are at greater allergy risk or simply experience higher sensitization rates as a result of their gender, a finding which could affect physicians' interpretation of increasingly used IgE blood tests."

The Quest study evaluated results of ImmunoCAP specific immunoglobulin E, or IgE, blood testing to 11 common allergens, including common ragweed and mold, two dust mites, cats and dogs and five foods. IgE is an antibody in blood produced by the body's immune system when an allergen is present. A high IgE sensitization level for a specific allergen tested is highly suggestive of an allergy, although physicians also evaluate symptoms, medical history and other factors in order to clinically diagnose an allergy, Quest stated.

Earlier this month, Quest Diagnostics released preliminary results from the report, including growth rates of two environment-based allergens linked to climate change and associations between allergies and asthma in children. Allergies are one of the most common health conditions, affecting 1-in-5 Americans. To access the full report, visit QuestDiagnostics.com/HealthTrends.

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