According to a new study, men produce more of a protein linked to liver cancer than women do. Researchers report that this finding might explain why liver cancer affects more men than women.
Â Your body produces a certain protein, called IL-6. This protein shows up when there is damage to your liver. And once IL-6 is in your liver, it can cause chronic inflammation. This chronic inflammation, in turn, can cause cancer.
Â It seems that women produce a lot less of this protein, however. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that estrogen actually keeps the amount of IL- 6 women do produce in check.
Â Liver cancer can be caused by chronic liver disease, heavy alcohol use, hepatitis B or C infections, or a family history of cancer. According to statistics, men are three to five times more likely to develop liver cancer than women.
Â Mice were used in this latest study. The research team first gave mice a cancer-causing agent. All of the male mice developed liver cancer. Only one out of five of the females developed cancer.
Â The researchers determined that levels of IL-6 in the males were much higher than in the females. Some mice were unable to produce IL-6. When the researchers gave the cancer-causing agent to these mice, only one in 10 males developed cancer.
Â The researchers also treated a third group of male mice with estrogen and then gave them the cancer-causing agent. In this case, rates of liver cancer remained the same as in normal female mice.
Â Researchers discovered that the liver cells showed that estrogen helped cut the production of IL-6.
Â “While some organs, such as breasts, are clearly influenced by gender, others, like the liver, are not,” said Willscott Naugler, clinical instructor in the department of medicine at UCSD, in a prepared statement.
Â Naugler went on to say that is very interesting that liver inflammation is suppressed by estrogens.
Â Itâs possible that organs not usually associated with gender differences may follow a similar pattern as the liver.
Â Bladder cancer, for example, occurs more frequently in males than females. The difference may very well be a result of higher IL-6 levels and inflammation in male bladders.
Â The study was published in the July issue of âScience.â The researchers suggest that either reducing the amount of IL-6 in men or giving men an estrogen-like compound might help reduce liver cancer rates.