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U-M study finds women under-represented in cancer researchWomen are under-represented in clinical cancer research published in high-impact journals, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Taking into account the incidence of particular types of cancer among women, studies included a smaller proportion of women than should be expected. The analysis looked specifically at studies of cancer types that were not gender specific, including colon cancer, oral cancers, lung cancer, brain tumors and lymphomas.
The authors looked at 661 prospective clinical studies nationally with more than 1 million total participants. Results of this study appear in the journal Cancer.
"In the vast majority of individual studies we analyzed, fewer women were enrolled than we would expect given the proportion of women diagnosed with the type of cancer being studied. We're seeing it across the board in all cancer types," says study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., assistant professor of radiation oncology at the U-M Medical School. "It's so important that women are appropriately represented in research. We know there are biological differences between the sexes, as well as social and cultural differences. Studies need to be able to assess whether there are differences in responses to treatment, for example, between women and men."
The U-M researchers found that studies reporting government funding included higher numbers of women participants, but the impact was modest - 41 percent, compared to 37 percent for studies not receiving government funding.
Traditionally, researchers were told not to include people of vulnerable populations in their studies. This group included women of childbearing age. "By protecting them from research, we're excluding them," Jagsi says.
Previous studies have found some barriers to clinical trial participation are lack of information, fear and a perception of interfering with personal responsibilities, such as child care.
Health choices predict cancer survival, U-M study findsHead and neck cancer patients who smoked, drank excessively, didn't exercise or didn't eat much fruit when they were diagnosed had worse survival outcomes than those with better health habits, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"While there has been a recent emphasis on biomarkers and genes that might be linked to cancer survival, the health habits a person has at diagnosis play a major role in his or her survival," says study author Sonia Duffy, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor of nursing at the U-M School of Nursing and research assistant professor of otolaryngology at the U-M Medical School.
Each of the factors was independently associated with survival. Results of the study appear in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The researchers surveyed 504 head and neck cancer patients about five health behaviors: smoking, alcohol use, diet, exercise and sleep. Patients were surveyed every three months for two years and then yearly after that.
Smoking was the biggest predictor of survival, with current smokers having the shortest survival. Problem drinking and low fruit intake were also associated with worse survival, although vegetable intake was not. Lack of exercise also appears to decrease survival.
"Health behaviors are only sporadically addressed in busy oncology clinics where the major focus is on surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Addressing health behaviors may enhance the survival advantage offered by these treatments," says Duffy, a U-M Cancer Center investigator.
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
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