17. June 2018

Study funded by DNRF grant to CSE: Removal of children’s tonsils increases risks for developing asthma

Jacobus Boomsma was the head of the Centre for Social Evolution (CSE) from 2005 to 2015. During that period, the center was funded by a grant from the Danish National Research Foundation. In a recent study that originated with the funding from the DNRF, Boomsma found that removal of the tonsils and adenoids is associated with respiratory, allergic, and infectious diseases.

In a new study, Professor Jacobus Boomsma, previously head of center, together with his colleagues Sean G. Byars and Stephen C. Stearns, shows that children who had their tonsils and adenoids removed have a significantly increased risk of developing asthma and allergic diseases later in life. The research originates from the DNRF’s funding to the Centre for Social Evolution, where Boomsma was head of center. The study, which was recently published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology, examined almost 1.2 million Danish children who were born between 1979 and 1999 and who had their tonsils or adenoids removed. The examinations were made starting when the children were age 10 up until they were 30 years old.

The research results show that approximately 60,000 of the children who had their tonsils removed during their childhood developed respiratory diseases later in life. That is approximately every fifth child. This is the first time a research project on such a large scale took a closer look at the long-term effects on children of removing these immune system organs.

“The study shows that there are many unintentional side effects. One is especially more exposed to illnesses in the respiratory passageways,” Professor Boomsma said to the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR). He added: “Our research shows that there is a reasonable foundation for being careful. This underlines that it [removal of the tonsils] is not free from consequences later in life.”

The study is based on data gathered under the center’s research program “Evolutionary Medicine,” which was established in 2008 as part of the funding from the DNRF. The research results thus serve as an example of how the DNRF’s long-term funding can create a foundation for future research.

Today, 7,000 operations during which tonsils are completely or partly removed are performed every year on children in Denmark. Several media outlets, both national and international, have written about the Boomsma’s new research results.

The scientific article from JAMA can be found here

Read for about the research at Scienmag here

Read about the research in Danish here

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