Production of a protein that promotes inflammation appears to be linked to the higher incidence of liver cancer in men than in women , researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have determined in mouse studies.
Their discovery that female mice produce far less of the protein called interleukin-6 (IL-6) in response to liver injury than males do, and that production of this protein is suppressed by estrogen, may point the way to therapies to reduce the incidence of liver cancer in males. IL-6 contributes to the chronic liver inflammation that leads to cancer.
The research team was led by Michael Karin, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology in UCSDs Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction. The findings will be published in the July 6 issue of the journal Science.
Males show a higher rate of inflammation than females in the same diseases, including cancer, said Willscott Naugler, M.D., clinical instructor in UCSDs Department of Medicine and first author of the paper. We wondered if increased inflammation was behind the higher incidence of liver cancer in males and, if so, how and why?"
Heptocellular carcinoma (HCC) a devastating complication of chronic liver disease and inflammation caused by risk factors such as hepatitis B and C viruses, or alcoholic liver disease makes up the majority of liver cancers in humans.
Overall, men are three to five times more likely to develop HCC than women; however, in individuals who are under 50, HCC is seen seven to 10 times more frequently in men. A similar or even more pronounced gender disparty is seen in mice.
In order to understand the mechanisms underlying gender disparity in HCC, the UCSD researchers used a chemical carcinogen, DEN, to induce cancer in mice. This resulted in HCC in 100 percent of male mice, but only in 10 to 20 percent of their female littermates.
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