Women diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma tend to live longer than men with the same disease.
Australian researchers say understanding exactly why that is could open the door to improving mesothelioma treatment for both genders.
Assessing Mesothelioma Survival Rates By Gender
Researchers led by the Cancer Epidemiology and Intelligence Division of Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne used cancer registry data to identify cases of malignant mesothelioma and 24 others types of cancer diagnosed in Victoria between 1982 and 2015.
Then, they assessed the survival differences for each type of cancer between men and women, adjusting for each patient’s age and year of diagnosis.
According to their report published this week in Cancer Causes & Control, the bad news for men is that the five-year net survival rate for all cancers combined was lower for men than it was for women.
Men Face Mesothelioma “Survival Disadvantage”
Men faced a “survival disadvantage” for 11 cancers, including both types of mesothelioma, head and neck, esophagus, colorectal, pancreatic, lung, bone, melanoma, thyroid, and non-Hodgin’s lymphoma.
Although women in the study were less likely than men to contract mesothelioma and were more likely to respond better to mesothelioma treatment, their survival rates were lower for bladder, renal pelvis, and ureter cancers.
For most of the cancers in which there was a survival difference between the genders, the number of deaths went down as the average age at diagnosis increased. Because of its long latency, most people do not receive a mesothelioma diagnosis until age 65 or older.
While the authors of this study did not delve into the reasons for the disparity in cancer survival, they say exploring those reasons could lead to more effective therapies for cancers like mesothelioma.
“Identifying the underlying reasons behind sex differences in cancer survival is necessary to address inequalities, which may improve outcomes for men and women,” writes epidemiological researcher Nina Afshar, an author on the study.
Improving the Odds of Surviving Mesothelioma
The most important risk factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Many patients were unknowingly exposed in their own workplaces before regulations were in place to help protect workers. Some people are still being exposed to the toxin in older homes and buildings that were constructed with asbestos-containing products.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, but have not been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should know the symptoms of mesothelioma, support your body with a healthy lifestyle, and schedule regular checkups with a healthcare professional who knows about your exposure history.
If you are a mesothelioma patient, research and the experience of people like long-term mesothelioma survivor Paul Kraus suggests that you can improve your odds of survival by eating a diet rich in antioxidants and low in animals fats, staying as physically active as possible, seeking care from a cancer center with experience in mesothelioma, and talking to your doctor about clinical trials.
Afshar, N, et al, “Differences in cancer survival by sex: a population-based study using cancer registry data”, September 7, 2018, Cancer Causes & Control, Epub ahead of print