Melanoma is an extremely aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer. Almost every Australian has heard of it, as it is the third most common cancer in Australia. While we’ve known for a while that men are far more likely to die from the disease than women, a recent study published in Science Translational Medicine may help us to understand the reason behind this difference.
Canadian researchers, working at McGill University, studied tumor samples taken from melanoma patients. They identified a gene called PPP2R3B in the sex chromosomes (the part of your DNA that determines whether you are a male or a female). The expression of this gene slows down cell division and therefore slows down the growth of the cancer. There is a close correlation between the expression of this gene in melanoma cells and the severity of the disease and overall survival of the patient.
Cells which expressed higher levels of this gene survived for a longer period of time.
The researchers noticed that the expression of this gene appeared to be lower in male than in females. Perhaps this difference may provide some explanation into why males typically have poorer overall survival from melanoma.