09 Aug Lifestyle Exposures Do Not Explain Why Men Are More Prone to Cancer
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sarah S. Jackson PhD
Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch
Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics
National Cancer Institute
Bethesda, MD 20892
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: There are many cancers that both men and women can develop, specifically those that do not affect the reproductive tract. Men have higher rates of these nonreproductive cancers than women. There are only two nonreproductive cancer types that are more common in women: thyroid and gallbladder. Historically, we have thought this is because women are less likely to smoke or drink and are more likely to eat well and exercise than men.
This study sought to examine the sex bias in cancer incidence after controlling for those lifestyle factors to see if this explained the male predominance in cancer.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: We found that after controlling for factors like smoking, alcohol use, diet, physical activity, and common medical conditions, the sex bias remained for most cancers. We then statistically quantified the contribution of these risk factors to the male predominance and found that the risk factors were responsible for only a small fraction of the difference between men and women. For instance, differences in smoking, diet, and conditions like diabetes, between men and women explain only 20% of the male bias in bladder cancer, a cancer that men are more than 3 times more likely to develop than women.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our findings show that these lifestyle exposures do not explain the sex difference in cancer incidence, which suggests that there are underlying biological differences between males and females that result in different susceptibilities to cancer. These biological differences include sex hormones and genetics, which may influence immune response.
However, cancer does not operate within absolutes. Though this sex bias may exist, women can still get non-reproductive cancers, and, critically, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and following cancer screening guidelines remain important means of cancer prevention for both men and women
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?
Response: Our findings confirm the importance of investigating sex-associations in cancer outcomes, which is currently a promising area of research, which is largely untapped.
The dataset we used consists largely of non-Hispanic White adults; we’d like to see if the same sex bias is present in other ethnic groups. We’d also like to explore the contribution of sex hormones and genetics to cancer incidence in future research.
Jackson, S.S., Marks, M.A., Katki, H.A., Cook, M.B., Hyun, N., Freedman, N.D., Kahle, L.L., Castle, P.E., Graubard, B.I. and Chaturvedi, A.K. (2022), Sex disparities in the incidence of 21 cancer types: Quantification of the contribution of risk factors. Cancer. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.34390
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