Background: There is a big contradiction in the medical literature regarding the relationship between atopy and contact hypersensitivity. Some authors believe that atopy would prevent, whereas others believe that it would promote the development of contact allergy. Possible causes for this confusion range from different study populations to different definitions of atopy.
Objective: To assess the relationship between atopy and contact hypersensitivity in a well-defined sample from the general population, using objectively measurable markers.
Methods: 135 randomly selected vocational students were involved: 73 females and 62 males aged 18 - 19 years. The following atopy markers were tested: positive skin prick tests, positive Phadiatop, and total IgE above 120 kU/l. Contact hypersensitivity was detected by using patch tests.
Results: At least one positive skin prick test was found in 23.7% of study participants (95% confidence interval: 16.5-30.9%), positive Phadiatop in 20.0% (13.3-26.7%), and total IgE above 120 kU/l in 23.7% (16.5-30.9%). Positive patch tests were found in 28.1% (20.6-35.7%), most frequently to thimerosal (18.5%, 12.0-25.1%) and nickel (9.6%, 4.6-14.6%). For persons with atopy markers, odds ratios for contact hypersensitivity ranged from 1.0 to 3.2; None of these relationships proved statistically significant (P>0.05 in all cases).
Conclusion: Despite claims published previously, analysis of objective markers shows that atopy and contact hypersensitivity are independent phenomena.
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