Why men are more at risk than women -

Cancer risk: differences between men and women

On average, more men than women develop most forms of cancer. The causes of these gender differences have now been collated in an ongoing study.

In a recent study, researchers from the National Cancer Institute in the United States investigated why more men develop cancer than women. The work was recently presented in the renowned journal Cancer.

Investigating the causes of increased susceptibility to cancer in men

The working group around Dr. Sarah S. Jackson analyzed the causes of cancer in 17,951 men and 8,742 women. The diseases were diagnosed during the so-called "NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study", in which almost 300,000 people tested between the ages of 50 and 71 participated between 1995 and 2011.

Men have a higher cancer risk than women

With the exception of thyroid and gallbladder cancer, the risk of developing the disease was higher in men than in women for the 21 types of cancer examined. In the case of esophageal cancer, the risk in men was even 10.8 times higher than in women. For throat cancer, bladder cancer, and stomach cancer, the risks for men were about three and a half times higher than for women.

It has previously been suggested that men, on average, exhibit more harmful behaviors than women when it comes to smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, and other cancer-promoting factors. However, the results of the current study suggest that biological sex differences may be the answer to increased cancer risk in men.

Behavioral differences explain only a small proportion

Analysis by the National Cancer Institute Task Force shows that the increased risk of cancer in men persists when a wide range of risk behaviors and carcinogenic exposures are taken into account.

Differences in risk behavior and carcinogenic exposure between the sexes can explain only a small part of the male predominance in the number of cases of most types of cancer, according to the researchers.

Lung cancer was an exception, with smoking accounting for about 50% of the increased risk in men.

For most other cancers, the results suggest that physiological, immunological, and genetic differences between the sexes play the largest role in men's increased susceptibility to cancer compared to women.

"Our results show that there are differences in cancer incidence that cannot be explained by environmental influences alone," confirms Dr. Jackson. On the contrary, she says, the results suggest that there are biological sex differences that affect susceptibility to cancer. (vb)

Author and source information

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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


The Wiley Network: Why do men face a higher risk of most types of cancer than women? (published 8/3/2022), newsroom.wiley.com Sarah S Jackson, Morgan A Marks, Hormuzd A Katki, et al. : Gender disparities in the incidence of 21 types of cancer: Quantification of the contribution of risk factors; in: Cancer (2022), acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Important Note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.