Background: This study examined sex-specific patterns and temporal trends in the incidence of solid tumours in the Northern Region of England from 1968 to 2005. This updates earlier analyses from the region where sex was not considered in depth. Sex-specific analyses were carried out to determine whether sex differences might provide clues to aetiology.
Methods: Details of 3576 cases, aged 0-24 years, were obtained from a specialist population-based cancer registry. There were 1843 males (886 aged 0-14 years and 957 aged 15-24 years) and 1733 females (791 aged 0-14 years and 942 aged 15-24 years). Age-standardized incidence rates (per million population) were calculated. Linear regression was used to analyze temporal trends in incidence and annual percentage changes were estimated. Analyses were stratified by sex and by age-group.
Results: There were marked differences in incidence patterns and trends between males and females and also between age-groups. For males central nervous system (CNS) tumours formed the largest proportion of under-15 cases and germ cell tumours was the largest group in the 15-24's, whilst for females CNS tumours dominated in the under-15's and carcinomas in the older group. For 0-14 year olds there were male-specific increases in the incidence of rhabdomyosarcoma (2.4% per annum; 95% CI: 0.2%-4.5%) and non-melanotic skin cancer (9.6%; 95% CI: 0.0%-19.2%) and female-specific increases for sympathetic nervous system tumours (2.2%; 95% CI: 0.4%-3.9%), gonadal germ cell tumours (8.6%; 95% CI: 4.3%-12.9%) and non-gonadal germ cell tumours (5.4%; 95% CI: 2.8%-7.9%). For 15-24 year olds, there were male-specific increases in gonadal germ cell tumours (1.9%; 95% CI: 0.3%-3.4%), non-gonadal germ cell tumours (4.4%; 95% CI: 1.1%-7.7%) and non-melanotic skin cancer (4.7%; 95% CI: 0.5%-8.9%) and female-specific increases for osteosarcoma (3.5%; 95% CI: 0.5%-6.5%), thyroid cancer (2.8%; 95% CI: 0.1%-5.6%) and melanoma (4.6%; 95% CI: 2.2%-7.1%).
Conclusion: This study has highlighted notable differences between the sexes in incidence patterns and trends for solid tumours. Some of these sex-specific differences could have been obscured if males and females had been analysed together. Furthermore, they suggest aetiological differences or differential susceptibility to environmental factors between males and females.