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Women Underrepresented in Cancer Trials

Last Updated: June 09, 2009.

Women are underrepresented as patients in clinical studies of non-sex-specific cancers, though representation is better in government-funded studies, according to a report published online June 8 in Cancer.

TUESDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- Women are underrepresented as patients in clinical studies of non-sex-specific cancers, though representation is better in government-funded studies, according to a report published online June 8 in Cancer.

Reshma Jagsi, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor examined the representation of women in 661 prospective clinical studies published in eight journals in 2006 involving 1,096,098 participants.

The researchers found that for all seven non-sex-specific cancers examined, women were underrepresented compared to their percentage in the general population with that cancer type. Among studies focused on treatment, women were also significantly underrepresented for six of the cancer types. The mean percentage of women was 38.8 percent in the 484 non-sex-specific studies. Government-funded studies for non-sex-specific cancers had significantly higher mean female representation (41.3 versus 36.9 percent). After controlling for cancer type, the authors note that female underrepresentation was more likely for studies focusing on cancer treatment and without government funding.

"Observed associations between government funding and greater subject diversity merit further explanation. Only by understanding the forces affecting the sex distribution of study subjects can we as a society succeed in ensuring that our medical research efforts are inclusive and to the benefit of all," Jagsi and colleagues conclude.

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