Gender-Dependent Specificities in Cutaneous Melanoma Predisposition, Risk Factors, Somatic Mutations, Prognostic and Predictive Factors: A Systematic Review

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 27;18(15):7945. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18157945.


Background and aim: Over the last decades, the incidence of melanoma has been steadily growing, with 4.2% of the population worldwide affected by cutaneous melanoma (CM) in 2020 and with a higher incidence and mortality in men than in women. We investigated both the risk factors for CM development and the prognostic and predictive factors for survival, stratifying for both sex and gender.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of studies indexed in PUB-MED, EMBASE, and Scopus until 4 February 2021. We included reviews, meta-analyses, and pooled analyses investigating differences between women and men in CM risk factors and in prognostic and predictive factors for CM survival.

Data synthesis: Twenty-four studies were included, and relevant data extracted. Of these, 13 studies concerned potential risk factors, six concerned predictive factors, and five addressed prognostic factors of melanoma.

Discussion: The systematic review revealed no significant differences in genetic predisposition to CM between males and females, while there appear to be several gender disparities regarding CM risk factors, partly attributable to different lifestyles and behavioral habits between men and women. There is currently no clear evidence of whether the mutational landscapes of CM differ by sex/gender. Prognosis is justified by a complex combination of phenotypes and immune functions, while reported differences between genders in predicting the effectiveness of new treatments are inconsistent. Overall, the results emerging from the literature reveal the importance of considering the sex/gender variable in all studies and pave the way for including it towards precision medicine.

Conclusions: Men and women differ genetically, biologically, and by social construct. Our systematic review shows that, although fundamental, the variable sex/gender is not among the ones collected and analyzed.

Keywords: gender; melanoma; meta-analysis; precision medicine; predictive factors; prognostic factors; risk factors; sex; systematic review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma* / epidemiology
  • Melanoma* / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / genetics