Doctors have known for decades that men have a higher ratio to develop cancer than women. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), men have a one in two chance of being diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes; for women, the chance is one in three.
Scientists once believed that the increased risk was tied to lifestyle differences. For decades, men were heavier smokers and drinkers, and their work environment may have raised their risk. But even as more women started smoking, drinking, and joining the workforce, the incidence of cancer remained consistent. For decades, no one could pinpoint the cause for the disparity.
Then, in a 2016 study led by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and several hospitals, investigators uncovered a genetic explanation for the difference. As it turns out, females carry an extra copy of specific protective genes in their cells that men don’t. These genes act as an additional line of defense, preventing cells from growing out of control and causing cancer. These protective cells aren’t entirely responsible for cancer’s bias toward males. Still, scientists believe they account for some gender imbalance, especially for cancers that occur two to three times more often in men than women, including head and neck, esophageal and bladder cancers.
About Cancer Treatment Centers of America®
Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is a national network of five hospitals that serves adult patients who are fighting cancer. CTCA® offers an integrative approach to care that combines advancements in genomic testing and precision cancer treatment, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy, with evidence-informed supportive therapies designed to help patients physically and emotionally by enhancing their quality of life while managing side effects both during and after treatment.