Why Is Glioblastoma More Deadly For Men Than Women?

Medical research continues to provide us with evidence of various risk factors for different health conditions.  While age and lifestyle certainly have their merit, gender can also play a role in certain health issues.  For example, men are more likely to die from a brain tumor because of certain predetermined genetic factors.  

This is according to new research from Washington University where researchers have identified the molecular signatures of glioblastama, which is the most aggressive form of brain tumor.  These researchers found that not only does this aggressive form of brain tumor kill approximately half of patients within just 14 months of initial diagnosis but, more importantly, it claims males twice as often as females. 

According to co-senior author Professor Joshua Rubin, this study could definitely have an immediate impact on the care for glioblastoma patients, requiring yet further research.  The Washington University (St Louis) neuroscientist goes on to say, “The findings indicate we should be stratifying male and female glioblastoma into risk groups and evaluating the effectiveness of treatment in a sex-specific manner.”

He adds that the “biology of sex differences and its applications in medicine are highly relevant but almost always ignored aspects of personalized treatments.”

Now, it has been pretty common knowledge—for the last few decades, at least—that men tend to get cancer and die from the disease for more often than women.  Moreover, this fact is quite true to many types of cancers, but the reasons for this data are still unclear.  

For example, the American Cancer Society estimates 856,000 men and 879,000 women were diagnosed with some kind of cancer in 2018. While these numbers are nearly equal, 323,000 of these men died from cancer versus 286,000 of women.

Indeed, Dr. Rubin advises that even though we have decades of research we still do not really have an effective treatment for glioblastoma.  

The American Cancer Society details that nearly 24,000 people were diagnosed with any type of malignant brain tumor in 2018. This includes 14,000 men and 10,000 women. Furthermore, the organization dictates that glioblastoma survival rate is quite low across the board at only about 19 percent of adults up to the age of 44 who will live five or more years after receiving their diagnosis.  The five-year survival rate in adults over the age of 55, however, drops to only 5 percent.