January 11, 2007 - NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - When women and men have lung cancer of the same stage and are given the same treatment, the women are more likely to survive, according to the findings published in the journal of Chest.
Lung cancer "is the number one cause of cancer deaths in both men and women worldwide," Dr. Robert James Cerfolio and colleagues from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, write.
Several studies using data from national cancer registries have shown that men and women differ in lung cancer survival. The present study was different in that it determined survival in men and women who were diagnosed with lung cancer, treated based on the same algorithm, and then followed for up to 7 years.
The study focused on patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the most common type. Unlike the small cell variant, non-small cell lung cancer is often amenable to surgical removal and more responsive to chemotherapy.
The study included 1,085 patients -- 671 men and 414 women. There were no significant differences between the sexes in terms of race, other diseases, smoking history, lung function and the treatment received.
At 5 years, 60 percent of women were still alive compared with 50 percent of men. Moreover, women had consistently higher survival rates for all stages of disease.
As to why survival was better for women, it may relate to them being more responsive to chemotherapy, Cerforlio and colleagues report.
The researchers conclude that the findings might help improve the "dismal" overall 5-year survival rate for patients with non-small lung cancer "by helping to target new therapeutic options."
SOURCE: Chest, December 2006.