Influence of sex and age on fluorouracil clearance

J Clin Oncol. 1992 Jul;10(7):1171-5. doi: 10.1200/JCO.1992.10.7.1171.


Purpose: Currently, fluorouracil (5-FU) is one of the major drugs used in cancer chemotherapy. Several investigators, including ourselves, have demonstrated a link between abnormalities in 5-FU clearance (Cl) and the risk of developing more or less 5-FU-related toxicities. Age and sex are among the host factors that have been implicated in the pharmacokinetic variability of drugs. Presently, no data are available on the possible influence of sex and age on 5-FU Cl.

Patients and methods: Three hundred eighty patients (mean age, 61.7 years; range, 25 to 91; 301 men and 79 women) with squamous cell carcinoma (sre) of the head and neck were treated in our institution between 1987 and 1991. 5-FU Cl was determined for a total of 1,092 chemotherapy cycles. Each cycle consisted of cisplatin and 5-day continuous intravenous infusion 5-FU (daily doses ranging between 365 and 1,224 mg/m2).

Results: 5-FU Cl values (L/h/m2) showed a wide dispersion for both men (median, 179; range, 29 to 739) and women (median, 155; range, 56 to 466). 5-FU Cl values were lower significantly for women compared with men (P = .0005). When adjusted for age and dose, the influence of sex on log Cl remained significant (P = .013). There was no evidence that age modified 5-FU Cl when adjusted for sex and dose. Interestingly, for both men and women, the oldest patients (greater than 70 years) maintained their ability to clear 5-FU with daily doses that ranged from 500 to 1,000 mg/m2.

Conclusions: These data indicate that the capacities to clear 5-FU are lower in women compared with men and are not influenced by age. It would be of interest to know whether this sex-related difference in 5-FU Cl may be clinically relevant by considering both toxicity and tumor response to 5-FU treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacokinetics*
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Normal Distribution
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Fluorouracil