Sex- and gender-specific disparities in colorectal cancer risk

World J Gastroenterol. 2015 May 7;21(17):5167-75. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i17.5167.


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer morbidity both in men and in women. However, females over 65 years old show higher mortality and lower 5-year survival rate of colorectal cancer compared to their age-matched male counterparts. The objective of this review is to suggest gender-based innovations to improve colorectal cancer outcomes in females. Women have a higher risk of developing right-sided (proximal) colon cancer than men, which is associated with more aggressive form of neoplasia compared to left-sided (distal) colon cancer. Despite differences in tumor location between women and men, most of scientific researchers do not consider sex specificity for study design and interpretation. Also, colorectal cancer screening guidelines do not distinguish females from male, which may explain the higher frequency of more advanced neoplasia when tumors are first detected and false negative results in colonoscopy in females. Moreover, socio-cultural barriers within females are present to delay screening and diagnosis. Few studies, among studies that included both men and women, have reported sex-specific estimates of dietary risk factors which are crucial to establish cancer prevention guidelines despite sex- and gender-associated differences in nutrient metabolism and dietary practices. Furthermore, anti-cancer drug use for colorectal cancer treatment can cause toxicity to the reproductive system, and gender-specific recurrence and survival rates are reported. Therefore, by understanding sex- and gender-related biological and socio-cultural differences in colorectal cancer risk, gender-specific strategies for screening, treatment and prevention protocols can be established to reduce the mortality and improve the quality of life.

Keywords: Colorectal cancer; Gender; Prevention; Screening; Sex; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents