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Gender Linked to Development of Skin Cancer

Inherent gender differences – instead of more sun exposure – may be one reason why men are three times more likely than women to develop certain kinds of skin cancer// , say researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer, accounting for nearly 200,000 new cases in the United States each year. While occurring more often than melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma is not nearly as worrisome. Still, it can be lethal in some patients, especially those with suppressed immune systems, including transplant recipients or people who are HIV-positive.

Many studies have shown that the risk of squamous cell carcinoma increases with greater exposure to the sun. For years, investigators assumed that lifestyle had a lot to do with the disparity in the incidence of SCC – believing that men spend more time outside and are less likely to use sun protection than women.

While that may be true, scientists at Ohio State have shown that there may be another, even more critical factor involved – gender-linked differences in the amount of naturally occurring antioxidants in the skin.

The study appears in the April 1 issue of Cancer Research.

Dr. Tatiana Oberyszyn, an assistant professor of pathology and of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University Medical Center, has been studying non-melanoma skin cancers for years. She had a hunch there might be gender-related variables that accounted for the difference between male and female rates of developing these malignancies, and designed an experiment to find out what they might be.

A doctoral student in Oberyszyn’s laboratory, Jennifer Thomas-Ahner, subjected male and female mice to a single, identical, acute exposure to UVB light. It is UVB rays, as opposed to UVA or UVC rays in sunlight, that cause the most damage to the skin. Even a single, prolonged exposure is enough
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