Cancer epidemiology manuscripts often point out that cancer rates tend to be higher among males than females, yet rarely is this theme the subject of investigation.
We used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program data to compute age-adjusted (2000 US standard population) sex-specific incidence rates and male-to-female incidence rate ratios (IRR) for specific cancer sites and histologies for the period 1975-2004.
The ten cancers with the largest male-to-female IRR were Kaposi sarcoma (28.73), lip (7.16), larynx (5.17), mesothelioma (4.88), hypopharynx (4.13), urinary bladder (3.92), esophagus (3.49), tonsil (3.07), oropharynx (3.06) and other urinary organs (2.92). Only five cancers had a higher incidence in females compared to males: breast (0.01), peritoneum, omentum and mesentery (0.18), thyroid (0.39), gallbladder (0.57), and anus, anal canal and anorectum (0.81). Between 1975 and 2004, the largest consistent increases in male-to-female IRR were for cancers of the tonsil, oropharynx, skin excluding basal and squamous, and esophagus, while the largest consistent decreases in IRR were for cancers of the lip and lung and bronchus. Male-to-female IRRs varied considerably by age, the largest increases of which were for ages 40-59 years for tonsil cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. The largest decreases in male-to-female IRR by age, meanwhile, were for ages 30-49 years for thyroid cancer, ages ≥70 years for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, and ages ≥30 years for lung and bronchus cancer.
These observations emphasize the importance of sex in cancer etiopathogenesis and may suggest novel avenues of investigation.