Why are men at higher risk of cancer? Biological differences may be at play

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Males get most types of cancer more often than females. A new study finds that frequently cited risk factors do not explain the difference.

Research suggests a genetic reason males are more susceptible to cancer than females.

A note about sex and gender Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms, “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth.

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Cancer of most types develops more often in males than in females, and deaths from cancerTrusted Source reflect this disparity.

A new study from researchers at the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute has analyzed data for 171,274 male and 122,826 female volunteers who took part in the 1995-2011 NIH-AARP Diet and Health studyTrusted Source in an attempt to understand why this may be.

The analysis suggests that biological differences between the two sexes account for the imbalance, rather than behavioral or lifestyle factors, such as smoking and alcohol use, body mass index (BMI) and height, physical activity, diet, medications, and medical history.

“We hypothesized that these lifestyle factors weren’t the only reason that cancer incidence differs between men and women, but we were a little surprised that for many cancers these lifestyle factors explained such a small part of the difference,” lead author Dr. Sarah S. JacksonTrusted Source told Medical News Today.

Researchers assessed the disparity across 21 cancer sites in the human body. They found that 17,951 new diagnoses of cancer were attributed to men and 8,742 to women.

“In addition to known carcinogenic exposures, our analyses point to sex and, as a corollary, sex-related biologic factors as major determinants of cancer incidence in the United States,” the study concludes.

“Understanding the sex-related biologic mechanisms that lead to the male predominance of cancer at shared anatomic sites could have important implications for etiology and prevention,” the authors write.

The study appears in the journal CancerTrusted Source.

Cancer in males vs females The only types of cancer less frequently diagnosed in males than females were gallbladderTrusted Source and thyroid cancerTrusted Source.

The greater disparity was for esophageal adenocarcinoma Trusted Source, for which males were 10.80 times more likely to receive a diagnosis.

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