Women with Mesothelioma Have Survival Edge Over Men

Women develop pleural mesothelioma at rates nowhere close to the rates at which men are stricken. Yet when treated for it they stand a chance three times better than men to hit the five-year survival mark.

So says a research team that looked into 14,228 cases of pleural mesothelioma.

The study was published in June in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery journal to shed greater light on the different impact of pleural mesothelioma on men and women.

Past research produced a mix bag of results when it came to the question of how women fare against pleural mesothelioma compared to how men do. Some studies showed women had better survival, others did not.

Studying a Large Pleural Mesothelioma Population

The one shortcoming common to all of those earlier studies was the size of the population examined — not notably large.

By contrast, this current study examined a very sizable population of pleural mesothelioma victims and was focused on trying to understand why women were more likely to survive longer.

Of the cases reviewed, women accounted for 22 percent of the total — 3,196 in number.

When the 14,228 cases were fully dissected, the researchers found that the five-year survival rate for women was just over 13 percent, but for men it was less than 5 percent.

One of the researchers was prominent mesothelioma doctor Raja M. Flores, M.D., of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

His research colleagues were Emanuela Taioli, M.D., Ph.D.; Andrea S. Wolf, M.D., MPH; and Marlene Camacho-Rivera, ScD, MPH. They are population-health experts from the Hofstra School of Medicine and North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health System.

Prior to publishing their findings in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, the researchers offered them in January at the 50th Annual Meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons in Florida.

The 14,000-plus cases studied were culled from the comprehensive Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database compiled by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health. The cases date from 1973 and continue forward through 2009.

“Age, year of diagnosis, race, stage, cancer-directed surgery, radiation, and vital status were analyzed according to gender,” the researchers wrote.

But even though women were found to survive longer, the researchers noted that women tend to be diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at the same stage that it’s at when discovered in a man.

Also, the researchers noted that women are by and large offered the same treatments as men receive.

Adjusting for Differences in Mesothelioma Patients

The researchers tried to make apples-to-apples comparisons among the men and women.

They sought to do this by adjusting the evaluation baselines to take into account differences between the patients with regard to age, race, cancer stage and other factors.

But there were some variables they were unable to adjust for. These included differences in asbestos exposure, tumor biology and hormones.

The researchers came to the conclusion that they’re next going to need to do a separate study that considers asbestos exposure differences and the like.

An additional study along those lines would help improve the ability of clinicians to give both men and women more reliable prognoses, the researchers agreed.