Related Topics: Breast Cancer, Features, Men's Hormones

Why Men and Women React Differently to Cancer Gene

Researchers at Cleveland Clinic have discovered that an androgen receptor is found in both prostate and breast cancers, yet has opposite effects on these diseases.

AnnA Rushton

We always knew there were differences between the sexes, but who knew it also affected how we respond to various cancers. The gene – known as an androgen receptor (AR) – promotes cancer growth when the gene is “turned on” in prostate cancer.  The opposite is true in breast cancer, where the AR gene promotes cancer growth when the gene is “turned off.”   This is usually the case after menopause, when AR production ceases in women, and may be one explanation for the higher risk of breast cancer at that time.  So doctors have to treat prostate and breast cancers with completely opposite approaches to AR.  When treating prostate cancer, the strategy should be to block AR; in breast cancer, the strategy should be to support AR production.

Researchers from Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, concluded that their work explains why prostate cancer progression is associated with increased AR expression (and a common prostate cancer treatment strategy involves blocking AR), while most breast cancers occur post-menopause, after AR production has ceased (making AR supplementation a strategy for treating breast cancer).

Interestingly, Dr Charis Eng, one of the lead researchers, has also made a link with why we are encouraged to drink red wine as a healthy daily preventive – but in this case only for men. She said “We now see how androgen affects PTEN expression — and ultimately cancer. Our observations help explain why this prostate cancer risk can be halved by drinking red wine, which increases PTEN expression. Our data also suggest that treatment of the exact same cancer must be personalized for males and for females.”

I don’t believe John Lee ever recommended a daily glass of red wine, but natural  progesterone still remains high on the list of sensible prevention measures to minimize cancer risk.

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