Somewhere between 1% and 7% of human beings are allergic to insect venoms, with their symptoms ranging from mild overreactions to full-blown anaphylactic shock. For those with bee allergies, even the slightest sting can lead to a fight for life.
Allergies are defined as ‘hypersensitive immune responses’ — or, in colloquial terms, odd moments when our immune systems flip out. IgE antibodies are so damaging, scientists struggle to understand why—from an evolutionary standpoint—our bodies produce them in the first place.
In 1991, [Margie] Profet proposed a radical explanation for allergies: IgE antibodies, and the allergic reactions they cause, were meant to save our lives from toxins.
[I]n 2012, Cornell University researchers Paul and Janet Shellman-Sherman connected Profet’s toxin hypothesis to a strange medical phenomenon: people with allergies have lower risks of certain cancers. It’s possible that allergies serve to combat potential carcinogens.