Men have higher cancer risk because of biology NOT because they drink and smoke more, study finds

Scientists have thought that men's propensity to enjoy a few more drinks and take more smoke breaks than women was the reason they had higher rates of cancer overall.  But now a major study of 300,000 Americans by the National Cancer Institute suggests that biology makes men more vulnerable to cancer, not bad health habits.

Men drink and smoke more than women, but this is not the reason why they have a higher risk of cancer.

A major study suggests that biological differences are the real reason for the gender disparity.

Understanding these differences could help improve prevention and treatment, the researchers say.

The study looked at 300,000 middle-aged and older Americans who had been cancer-free for 15 years.

Men were more than twice as likely to develop the disease compared to women, even when lifestyle factors were ruled out.

“This suggests that there are intrinsic biological differences between men and women that affect susceptibility to cancer,” said lead researcher Dr. Sarah Jackson, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute.

The researchers suggested that differences in genes, hormones and the immune system play a role.

Scientists have thought that men’s propensity to enjoy a few more drinks and take more smoke breaks than women was the reason they had higher rates of cancer overall. But now a major study of 300,000 Americans by the National Cancer Institute suggests that biology makes men more vulnerable to cancer, not bad health habits.

FACTORS THAT INCREASE THE RISK OF CANCER

AGE

For most people, getting older is the biggest risk factor for developing cancer. In general, people over the age of 65 are at the highest risk of developing cancer. People under the age of 50 have a much lower risk.

FAMILY HISTORY

Cancer is very common and most people have family members who have had cancer. People often worry that a family history of cancer greatly increases their risk of developing it. But less than 1 in 10 cancers are associated with a strong family history of cancer.

TO SMOKE

In the UK, more than 1 in 4 cancer deaths (over 25%) are caused by smoking.

Breathing in other people’s smoke (secondhand smoke) also increases the risk of developing cancer.

ALCOHOL

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of mouth and throat cancer. But it is also linked to other cancers.

In general, the more you drink, the greater the risk. Your risk is even higher if you also smoke.

BEING OVERWEIGHT OR OBESITY

Being overweight increases the risk of many types of cancer, including those of the bowel, kidney, uterus and esophagus. Women who are overweight and have gone through menopause also have a higher risk of breast cancer.

Maintaining a healthy body weight reduces the risk of cancer and other health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Around 182,000 women are diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year, rising to 193,000 among men.

In the US, 970,000 men and 928,000 women have cancer confirmed annually.

NCI researchers examined the rates of 21 types of cancer in 171,274 men and 122,826 women.

Participants were aged between 50 and 71 and their records were monitored between 1995 and 2011.

The results, published in the journal CANCER, show that 17,951 cancers were detected among men, while only 8,742 were diagnosed among women.

Rates of thyroid and gallbladder cancer were higher among women, but the prevalence of all other cancers was higher among men.

They did not look at sex-specific cancers, such as uterine cancer or prostate cancer.

Men were 11 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer and four times more likely to develop stomach or throat cancer.

They were also three times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Further analysis found that men were still more likely to develop cancer overall when other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol intake and exposure to carcinogens were taken into account.

Scientists have previously noted higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption and exposure to chemicals such as asbestos in factories.

They also said men may be less likely to seek medical advice.

The team suggested that the male sex hormone testosterone may increase the likelihood of skin, prostate and liver cancer among men by promoting cell growth.

Meanwhile, they said women appear to have a stronger immune response against oncogenic infections, those that can cause cancer, such as hepatitis and HPV, which could reduce the risk of some cancers compared to men.

And research suggests that women have an extra copy of genes that protect against cancer compared to men, which could give them more protection.

Study leader Dr. Sarah Jackson, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, said: “Our results show that there are differences in cancer incidence that are not explained by environmental exposure alone.” .

It comes as scientists today call for the NHS to offer all cancer patients a genetic profile to determine which drugs will be most effective against their tumour.

Biomarker tests should be offered to Britons as soon as they are diagnosed to shape their care and track how their disease is progressing, according to a consensus statement from the Institute of Cancer Research Cancer and nine other organizations.

The tests look for genetic, protein or imaging “markers” that identify weaknesses in cancers and can match patients to the treatment they are most likely to respond to.

It is “crucial” that doctors can use these tests, but “regulatory processes and resources have not kept pace with the science,” so they are not always carried out.

The statement was also signed by Cancer Research UK, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, AstraZeneca and Leukemia UK.

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