Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2021 Jun 3:15353702211019697. doi: 10.1177/15353702211019697. Online ahead of print.
Lung cancer represents the world’s leading cause of cancer deaths. Sex differences in the incidence and mortality rates for various types of lung cancers have been identified, but the biological and endocrine mechanisms implicated in these disparities have not yet been determined. While some cancers such as lung adenocarcinoma are more commonly found among women than men, others like squamous cell carcinoma display the opposite pattern or show no sex differences. Associations of tobacco product use rates, susceptibility to carcinogens, occupational exposures, and indoor and outdoor air pollution have also been linked to differential rates of lung cancer occurrence and mortality between sexes. While roles for sex hormones in other types of cancers affecting women or men have been identified and described, little is known about the influence of sex hormones in lung cancer. One potential mechanism identified to date is the synergism between estrogen and some tobacco compounds, and oncogene mutations, in inducing the expression of metabolic enzymes, leading to enhanced formation of reactive oxygen species and DNA adducts, and subsequent lung carcinogenesis. In this review, we present the literature available regarding sex differences in cancer rates, associations of male and female sex hormones with lung cancer, the influence of exogenous hormone therapy in women, and potential mechanisms mediated by male and female sex hormone receptors in lung carcinogenesis. The influence of biological sex on lung disease has recently been established, thus new research incorporating this variable will shed light on the mechanisms behind the observed disparities in lung cancer rates, and potentially lead to the development of new therapeutics to treat this devastating disease.