Gender Differences Persist in Oncology Literature, Favoring Male Representation

A study found that while there have been “positive trends,” gender differences still remain in oncology publications.

“Investigating scientific publication trends in the field of oncology may highlight opportunities for improved representation, mentorship, collaboration, and advancement for women,” the study authors wrote.

To assess gender representation, the researchers performed a bibliometric analysis of the following publications in the years 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2017: Annals of Surgical OncologyCancerInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics (IJROBP); JAMA Oncology; and Journal of Clinical Oncology. They documented the full name and degree credentials per author role, article type, publication year, and citation metrics. Author gender was determined through first names.

Final analysis included 9,189 articles. Between 1990 and 2017, an increase was observed in female representation. For first authors, representation increased from 17.7% in 1990 to 36.6% in 2017; for senior authors, the rate increased from 11.7% to 28.5%. When assessing the 50 most cited articles per year, women were less represented as first (26.5%) and senior authors (19.9%). Male first and senior authors had a higher average citation count (44.8 per article and 47.1 per article, respectively) compared to female first and senior authors (39.7 per article and 44.1 per article, respectively). For articles with male senior authors, the first author was also more likely to be male (71.4% vs. 25.0%); the same was true with female senior authors (50.2% vs. 47.6%). The lowest total female representation was observed in IJROBP, both for first (25.1%) and senior authors (16.7%). Female authors had more MDs with master degrees, and men had more MDs and only and MDs with masters degrees.

The study was published in Cancer.

The study authors summarized, “Despite positive trends, substantial gendered differences in oncology publications persist. Fostering more women in oncology research will benefit female representation at many levels of academia and improve productivity, collaboration, and recruitment, especially in technical fields such as radiation and surgical oncology.”