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Females Have Significantly Better Outcomes with Melanoma

According to an article recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, females have significantly better survival than men with melanoma, regardless of menopausal status and stage of disease. Findings such as these may ultimately lead to different therapeutic approaches for the sexes with the same disease.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that when detected and removed prior to spread is highly curable. However, once melanoma spreads from its site of origin, cure rates fall dramatically.

The medical community has recently realized that different patient characteristics and variables are associated with different outcomes among those with the same disease. Elucidation of these different variables may ultimately lead to a more tailored approach to therapy for cancer.

Researchers from Belgium recently conducted a clinical study to further explore the potential that gender may have on outcomes for patients diagnosed with melanoma. The study included data from 3 prior large trials conducted by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC). The data included 2,734 patients with stage III melanoma and 1,306 patients with stage IV melanoma.

Overall, females had a significantly improved disease-specific survival than males, regardless of stage of cancer.
Among patients with stage III cancer, 5-year disease-specific survival was 51.5% for females and 43.3% in males.
Among patients with stage IV cancer, 2-year survival was 14.1% in males and 19% in females.
Improved outcomes among females were consistent whether they were pre- or postmenopausal.
The researchers concluded that females of all ages have significantly better outcomes compared to males in stages III and IV melanoma. The authors state that “A biologic sex trait seems to profoundly influence melanoma progression and survival, even in advanced disease..” Understanding of findings such as these can help to individualize and tailor treatment based upon individual characteristics of patients with cancer, versus just treating the disease itself. This, in turn, will optimize outcomes for all patients.

Reference: Joosse A, Collette S, Suciu S, et al. Sex Is an Independent Prognostic Indicator for Survival and Relapse/Progression-Free Survival in Metastasized Stage III to IV Melanoma: A Pooled Analysis of Five European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2013; 31(18): 2337-2346.