Radiotherapy Outcomes Potentially Differ According to Gender

April 12, 2020

A recent study examined the literature surrounding the efficacy of radiotherapy as it pertains to each gender, showing that women are more likely to be cured of their cancer with radiotherapy treatment than men.

Women are more likely to be cured of their cancer when undergoing radiotherapy than men are, but their side effects are likelier to be more severe, according to a review study published in Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology.1-2

According to study author Eva Bezak, professor of medical radiation at the University of South Australia, women are typically more sensitive to radiation than men, but international guidelines for radiation dosages don’t take this variable into consideration.

“It is clear that gender plays a role in the occurrence and response to therapy of many diseases,” said Bezak in a press release.“For example, it is already well established that men are more susceptible to head, neck and blood cancers and women are more prone to auto immune diseases as well as developing osteoporosis.”

Bezak, along with her colleagues Louis de Courcy from University College Dublin and Loredana Marcu from the University of Oradea in Romania, stressed the importance of considering gender when administering radiation treatment. Current guidelines suggest take into consideration weight, height and radiobiological responses of a general population, but have yet to consider gender.

The study investigated existing literature in the hopes of finding a statistically significant correlation between genders and radiotherapy treatment outcomes. The study examines the impacts of radiation regarding both tumor control and normal tissue toxicity.

Bezak used the historical event of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to further explain her point on gendered medicine. She explained that the cancer incidence rates in Japan after the bombings were much higher in women (58%) than in men (35%).

“It is also important to collect data retrospectively so we can compare the radiotherapy outcomes for men and women who were prescribed radiotherapy for the same cancer,” explained Bezak in a press release.

Moving forward, Bezak explained that research needs to include even amounts of female and male mice in trials to better understand how exactly radiotherapy treatment is different between the genders.

Even more, the researchers recommend conducting prospective and retrospective studies in the hopes of learning more regarding gender-specific differences in radiotherapy. The study’s review of literature found a small, but significant, distinction between treatment outcomes for each gender, and the hope is further trials can expound on this research.

“As healthcare becomes progressively more tailored to the individual, gender is a factor that can no longer be disregarded. It needs to be taken into account as an independent prognostic factor,” Bezak said in a press release.

References:

1. de Courcy L, Bezak E, Larcu LG, et al. Gender-dependent radiotherapy: The next step in personalised medicine? Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematologyhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.critrevonc.2020.102881.

2. The pros and cons of radiotherapy: will it work for you? [news release]. Published March 30, 2020. https://www.newswise.com/articles/the-pros-and-cons-of-radiotherapy-will-it-work-for-you?sc=dwhr&xy=10019792. Accessed April 3, 2020.