Does HAE Predispose People to Cancer?

In the past, there have been little to no concrete studies evaluating the relationship between hereditary angioedema (HAE) and cancer risk. However, researchers questioned whether some sort of relationship could exist – whether HAE could predispose someone to cancer development. According to Angioedema News, a study looking into the matter did find that those with HAE may have a higher chance of developing some sort of malignancy. 

Interested in taking a look at the full findings? Head over to Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology to learn more. 

About the Research

Altogether, this study centered around data from 49 patients with HAE in Canada. Researchers wanted to explore this patient population as there had previously been a link between acquired angioedema (AAE) and cancer. While HAE results from genetic mutations and AAE does not, the symptoms are similar. Thus, researchers questioned whether a similar relationship existed. Findings included:

  • 12.2% (6 patients) with HAE also had a history of cancer.
  • All patients were diagnosed with cancer after they turned 50, save for one woman whose precancerous cells appeared during her 40s. 
  • 50% of those diagnosed with cancer were diagnosed prior to their HAE diagnosis; the remaining 50% were diagnosed after. 
  • During the study, researchers also found an association between HAE and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ulcerative colitis (UC), among others. 

Despite a relatively small sample size, researchers do believe that HAE could increase the risk of developing cancer, particularly in older individuals. Because of this, the researchers suggest that older individuals with cancer, who present with HAE-related symptoms, should be evaluated for potential genetic mutations. This way, doctors can provide the highest quality care. 

Hereditary Angioedema (HAE)

To give a little more insight into hereditary angioedema (HAE), let’s break down the components of the name:

  • Hereditary – determined by genetic factors
    • Note: In this case, HAE is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, meaning those with HAE must only inherit one mutated gene to have this condition.
  • Angio – pertaining to blood vessels
  • Edema – swelling caused by excess fluid under bodily tissue

Thus, HAE is a genetic condition which causes “attacks” of severe swelling under the skin. Genetic mutations cause poorly functioning or completely deficient C1-inhibitor (a blood protein), causing protein fragments called bradykinin to accumulate and cause inflammation. People with HAE may experience facial swelling to the point of being unrecognizable, or have their extremities double or even triple in size. These attacks can be triggered by stress or injury, though they may also occur without a trigger. Typically, HAE affects females more than males. Other symptoms or characteristics include intestinal inflammation, abdominal distention, pain, vomiting, or throat swelling, which may cause difficulty breathing.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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