Nav: Home

The pros and cons of radiotherapy: Will it work for you?

March 29, 2020

Women undergoing radiotherapy for many cancers are more likely than men to be cured, but the side effects are more brutal, according to one of Australia's most experienced radiation oncology medical physicists.

University of South Australia (UniSA) Professor of Medical Radiation, Eva Bezak, says women are generally more sensitive to radiation than men, but this is not considered in international guidelines for radiation dosages.

Current guidelines are generally based on a person's height, weight or BMI, and radiobiological responses of the general population.

In a paper published in Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology, Professor Bezak and her colleagues Louis de Courcy from University College Dublin and Professor Loredana Marcu from the University of Oradea in Romania highlight the need for gender to be taken into account when administering radiation.

"It is clear that gender plays a role in the occurrence and response to therapy of many diseases," Professor Bezak says.

"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."

Scientists also know that individual responses to radiotherapy are up to 80 per cent determined by genetics.

So, where do we start with gendered medicine?

"The next step is to ensure that we use both male and female mice even in our pre-clinical testing so we can get a better understanding of how gender influences treatment outcomes.

"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."

It is a double-edged coin for men, too. Because they are more radio-resistant than women, their healthy tissues are better protected when receiving radiotherapy with fewer side effects, but their long-term survival rates are shorter.

The differences in radiation responses are highlighted by two major events in history: the Chernobyl nuclear reaction disaster in 1986 and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Professor Bezak says following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the incidence of cancer in Japan was much higher in women (58 per cent) compared to men (35 per cent).

Likewise, after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, millions fewer girls were born to irradiated men and women were at greater risk of endocrine imbalance, thyroid cancer and brain tumours.

The one area that does appear to give women some protection against radiation is the female hormone oestrogen, which has a neuroprotective effect during head irradiation.

"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," Prof Bezak says.

A video explaining the differences in radiation outcomes between men and women can be viewed at https://youtu.be/BtDniRA7DMs
-end-
Notes for editors

"Gender-dependent radiotherapy: the next step in personalised medicine?" is published in Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology. The other contributing authors are Louis de Courcy from University College, Dublin, and Professor Loredana G. Marcu from the University of Oradea.

University of South Australia

Related Cancer Articles:

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.
Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
Health indicators for newborns of breast cancer survivors may vary by cancer type
In a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed health indicators for children born to young breast cancer survivors in North Carolina.
Few women with history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer take a recommended genetic test
More than 80 percent of women living with a history of breast or ovarian cancer at high-risk of having a gene mutation have never taken the test that can detect it.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.