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Sex Hormones May Account for Better Mesothelioma Survival in Women

16142723_woman patient2There’s evidence that female sex hormones may help explain the better survival rates in women with peritoneal mesothelioma. The news could open the door for a new way to treat the disease.

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare form of mesothelioma that attacks the membrane around abdominal organs. Like most forms of mesothelioma, it is believed to be caused by asbestos and carries a poor prognosis. In addition to being less likely to contract mesothelioma than their male counterparts, women are also less likely to die from it quickly. Now, researchers at St. George Hospital in Sydney, Australia think they may know why.

The team analyzed data on 52 consecutive peritoneal mesothelioma patients treated with cytoreductive surgery and heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy at St. George Hospital between April 1996 and April 2013. Female patients were divided into those presumed to be past menopause (51 or older) and those believed to be premenopausal (under 51). In both men and women, mesothelioma patients were further divided into three groups: those under 40, those between 40 and 60, and those over 60.

As in past studies, women with epithelioid mesothelioma in the current study lived significantly longer than the men. They also had better overall median survival at better than 60 months compared to just 43 months for men. Most importantly, the survival of postmenopausal female mesothelioma patients was similar to the men, suggesting that the hormones present in younger women may be protective.

“The better survival in premenopausal females could probably be explained by higher levels of estradiol and progesterone,” report author Yeqian Huang and colleagues in the World Journal of Surgical Oncology. The authors conclude their report by suggesting that the therapeutic effects of sex steroid hormones in mesothelioma patients “may be a valuable area to explore.”

Australia was once one of the largest suppliers of asbestos to the rest of the world and tens of thousands of people worked in its asbestos mines. Today, Australia and the UK have the highest per capita rates of malignant mesothelioma in the world. All forms of asbestos are now banned in Australia, but rates of mesothelioma are expected to continue to rise for at least a decade.


Huang, Y, et al, “Effects of sex hormones on survival of peritoneal mesothelioma”, June 26, 2015, World Journal of Surgical Oncology, Epub ahead of print, http://www.wjso.com/content/13/1/210/abstract

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