(HealthDay News) – Melanoma progression and survival seem to be substantially influenced by a biologic sex trait, even in advanced disease, according to research published online May 20 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Arjen Joosse, MD, from the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed data from three large, randomized, controlled trials of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer in patients with stage III (2,734 patients) and two trials in patients with stage IV (1,306 patients) melanoma.

The researchers found that, among the stage III patients, females had a superior five-year disease-specific survival (DSS) rate compared with males (51.5% vs. 43.3%; adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 0.85). For relapse-free survival, the adjusted HR was 0.86. Females also exhibited an advantage in DSS among stage IV patients (two-year survival rate, 14.1% vs. 19%; adjusted HR, 0.81) and for progression-free survival (adjusted HR, 0.79). Across both pre- and postmenopausal age categories and across different prognostic subgroups, the female advantage prevailed. However, among patients with higher metastatic tumor load, the female advantage seemed to become smaller.

“The persistent independent female advantage, even after metastasis to lymph nodes and distant sites, contradicts theories about sex behavioral differences as an explanation for this phenomenon,” the authors write.

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