New Study Shows Higher Survival Rate Among Women With Mesothelioma

women at beach

A recent study performed by several physicians who’ve been endlessly researching mesothelioma and its effects, confirms what has been suspected by scientists and mesothelioma doctors for several years: women with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma have higher chances in achieving longer lifespans when compared to men who have the same disease.

Presented at the Fiftieth Annual Meeting of The Society of Thoracic Surgeon’s Poster Session in January 2014, the study represents one of the largest studies ever conducted regarding gender and asbestos-related diseases. The study included over 14,000 mesothelioma cases of people who were diagnosed with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma from 1973 through 2009.

Around 22% of the patients in the study were women. When compared to men with similar health traits, race, and age, women had a five-year survival rate of a little over 13% as opposed to men who had a five-year survival rate of 4.5%.

The study also discovered that the gap in survival rate declined as the patients grew older. Even if the patients have surgery, the difference in survival rate is small the older the patients get. For example, 35% of women with mesothelioma who had surgery survived at least one year, whereas 32% of men with mesothelioma who had surgery survived at least a year.

Experts first believed that women’s hormones were the main contributing factor, yet after the studies confirmed that older women still have slightly higher survival rates, they now feel there is more to the higher lifespans than just hormones.

“The fact that women have better survival rates than men suggests that there may be more than just hormones involved. Young women seem to do great, and it gives us good reason to be more aggressive in treating them,” said Andrea Wolf M.D., one of the assistant professors who contributed to the study.

Another contributing factor may include vast differences in asbestos exposure. Men were typically exposed much more to asbestos, and on a daily basis, compared to women. When women were exposed, in many cases, it was second-hand exposure from spouses’ clothing. 

“There could be many factors in why women seem to do better with this disease. It could be different types of exposure, for example. Historically, women were not working in the shipyards with all the asbestos, but they were cleaning the clothes of workers who did work there,” Dr. Wolf said.

Although experts have not pinpointed exactly why women have a longer survival rate, the new study has helped them understand more about how the peritoneal malignant mesothelioma affects people, which in turn can assist them in developing better treatment plans.

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