People Who Have More Fevers Have Fewer Chances of Getting Cancer, Says New Study

Researchers have discovered that repeated exposure to infectious fevers increases the quantity of the immune system's gd T cells. These unique lymphocytes have the ability to identify and even destroy malignant cancer cells.
Loukia Papadopoulos

The fear of cancer today is very common, especially as the often fatal disease seems to be linked to everything from sugar to cell phone use. According to the National Cancer Institute, the terrifying condition is expected to hit an estimated 1,735,350 people in the United States alone in 2018.


As researchers scramble to find treatments, a new study has revealed rather odd but positive news about a potential unusual cancer-deterrent. The work is based on a long-observed inverse relationship between a person's history of infectious fever and their risk of developing cancer. 

Fever incidents appeared to lower cancer risks

Decades of medical literature have shown recurring patterns of a potential correlation between a patient having had many fevers and the ability to either survive cancer longer or avoid it all together. However, this evidence was considered to be primarily anecdotal, until now.

Researchers at Poland's Nicolaus Copernicus University have now drawn upon past research and experimental data to analyze what may be causing this long-speculated inverse relationship. What they uncovered may lead to novel cancer immunotherapy practices and a newfound fondness for fevers.

As previous work pointed to "the effect of fever on innate and adaptive immune functions," these scientists decided to focus on "a particular mode of adaptive immune functioning that involves a type of T cells carrying a receptor composed of gamma/delta chain heterodimer." These lymphocytes are more commonly referred to as gd T cells

What they uncovered was that repeated exposure to fever increases the ability of these gd T cells to create environments hostile to malignant cells such as cancer ones. Their resulting paper is the first to ever acknowledge the cancer-deterring role of these cells already considered the first line of defence against pathogenic challenge.

Endogenous mediators may also help

The study also explored the potential role of fevers in engaging endogenous mediators that may also prove to be cancer-fighting. Infectious fevers are the body's natural defence against the introduction of foreign pyrogens that attack its immune system.

As such, once triggered, they activate many of the body's immune fortifying and protecting elements including endogenous mediators. According to the study, these "endogenous mediators of fever redirect metabolic substrates and energy to the immune system during fever."

"This markedly enhances the frequency of a vast range of immune effectors, including lymphocytes expressing gd heterodimer receptors, which possess a potent anti-infectious and antitumor competence," the authors write.

In the end, the authors conclude that gd T cells are equipped with unique attributes that enable them to put into motion cancer-deterring processes such as immune supervision and even attacks on malignant cancerous cells. Fevers contribute to the significant increase of the quantity of these gd T cells thus resulting in an important decrease of cancer risks.

The findings may change the current predominant focus of cancer immunotherapy practices on alpha/beta T cells to one that includes gd T ones. More importantly, they might make people more grateful for flu season.


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