Study: Women have an advantage in surviving most cancers

Research of Canadian survival rates examines potential reasons why females typically live longer

by Mina Martin

An examination of cancer survival in Canada has revealed that women have an advantage over men in surviving the majority of cancers – particularly among those diagnosed at younger ages. The study shows that women diagnosed before age 55 have a greater survival rate.

Canadian women are found to have an advantage in five-year relative survival rate (RSR) in 13 of the 18 cancers examined. The analysis also reveals that women have a 13 per cent lower relative excess risk (RER) of death for all cancers combined. Women’s greatest RER of death advantage was for thyroid cancer and skin melanoma. Among the cancers examined in the study, bladder cancer was found to be uniquely disadvantageous for women.

The study offered some potential reasons as to why women may have an advantage when it comes to cancer survival. One possibility points to sex hormones as a factor for causing more favourable outcomes for women. It was also theorized that higher cancer survival in women is due to them having generally healthier attitudes and behaviour, which may lead to diagnosis at an earlier age of the disease, and consequently, better prognosis.

But, despite the numbers showing women’s advantage in cancer survival in Canada, any concrete reasons for this disparity remain unclear. The study points out that many possibilities, biological and/or cultural, can still be explored, and it would be better if these many other explanations could be studied on a cancer-to-cancer basis.