Why Men Get More Skin Cancers

Skin cancer may be more common in men because of lower catalase levels

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's the dead of winter and you need to be wearing sunscreen, regardless. Recently published research is shedding sunlight on why more men get skin cancer than women.

Researchers have found that male mice have less of an antioxidant known as catalase than lady mice. This shortage is linked to higher levels of inflammatory cells which improves the odds of gentlemen developing skin cancer, the most common malignancy in the United States.

"Wearing sunscreen year-round is a skin healthy practice."

This research was conducted at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

Catalase acts like a mop. The protein wipes up things that damage the DNA when skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) light. UVB causes both sunburn and cancer-causing skin damage.

OSUCCC-James research leaders, Gregory Lesinski and Tatiana Oberyszyn, say this study suggests that women have more of these protective natural antioxidants in their skin than men. This may explain why men are three times more likely to get a common type of skin cancer - squamous cell carcinoma - than women.

So a man's skin tends to have more oxidative stress (think rust) than woman's skin, according to Lesinski, an assistant professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and a member of the OSUCCC – James Innate Immunity Program.

Researchers also learned that exposure from this type of sunlight causes a kind of inflammatory white blood cell (technically known as myeloid-derived suppressor cells) to move from the bone marrow into the skin.

And you guessed it - more of these cells traveled into the skin of guy mice than gal mice.

Oberyszyn, associate professor of pathology and a member of the OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program, says he thinks this is the first study illustrating a "sex-discrepancy" regarding these types of cells, "and it suggests that our findings might translate to other types of cancer. Men face a higher risk of numerous types of cancers, and relatively higher levels of inflammatory myeloid cells might contribute to this susceptibility," Oberyszyn said.

The research is published online in the December, 2011 issue of Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 27, 2011
Last Updated:
December 27, 2011