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High Immunoglobulin E Levels: A Cause for Concern in Cancer Risk?

December 30, 2021

While it is common knowledge that immunoglobulin E (IgE) is produced by plasma cells as part of an allergic immune response, are plasma IgE levels associated with risk of cancer in individuals from the general population? In a new study published in Annals of Oncology, Prof. Børge G. Nordestgaard, from the department of clinical biochemistry at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, and colleagues studied whether high levels of plasma total IgE are associated with overall risk of cancer – and specifically whether they were associated with the lymphoid malignancies chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and multiple myeloma.

To test their hypothesis, Prof. Nordestgaard and investigators measured plasma IgE levels in stored serum from 37,747 individuals from the general population; all were followed prospectively for up to 30 years.

During a mean follow-up of seven years, 3,454 participants were diagnosed with cancer. When researchers conducted a multivariable analyses of cancer incidence according to levels of IgE, they found that a 10-fold higher level of IgE conferred only a slightly higher risk of developing any cancer, but, as they hypothesized, was significantly protective of developing CLL and multiple myeloma (TABLE).

Although the findings for CLL and multiple myeloma were "generally robust," the authors wrote, after correcting for 27 multiple comparisons, only the finding for CLL remained significant.

The investigators observed an association between high levels of IgE and other non-Hodgkin lymphomas, cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx, and lung cancer, but, overall, there was no strong evidence for high risk of any cancer type.


Helby J, Bojesen SE, Nielsen SF, Nordestgaard BG. IgE and risk of cancer in 37,747 individuals from the general population. Ann Oncol. 2015 May 12. [Epub ahead of print]

TABLE. Multivariable Adjusted Hazard Ratio for Patients with 10-fold Higher IgE Plasma Levels

Multivariable adjusted hazard ratio

p Value

Any cancer

1.05 (95% CI 1.00-1.11)


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

0.44 (95% CI 0.30-0.64)


Multiple myeloma

0.53 (95% CI 0.33-0.84)


 Other non-Hodgkin lymphomas

1.54 (95% CI 1.04-2.29)


Cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx

1.38 (95% CI 1.04-1.84)


Lung cancer

1.12 (95% CI 1.00-1.25)



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