Studies Include a Smaller Proportion of Women

photo: young woman

Clinical trials should enroll adequate
numbers of women; © SXC

Taking into account the incidence of particular types of cancer among women, studies included a smaller proportion of women than should be expected. The analysis looked specifically at studies of cancer types that were not gender specific, including colon cancer, oral cancers, lung cancer, brain tumors and lymphomas. It comprises 661 clinical studies with more than 1 million total participants.

"It's so important that women are appropriately represented in research. We know there are biological differences between the sexes, as well as social and cultural differences. Studies need to be able to assess whether there are differences in responses to treatment, for example, between women and men," says study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., assistant professor of radiation oncology at the U-M Medical School.

The U-M researchers found that studies reporting government funding did include higher numbers of women participants, but the impact was modest – 41 percent, compared to 37 percent for studies not receiving government funding.

Traditionally, researchers were told not to include people of vulnerable populations in their studies. This group included women of childbearing age. "By protecting them from research, we're excluding them," Jagsi notes.

The under-representation of women in research is not necessarily the result of conscious decisions, points out Peter Ubel, M.D., director of the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine at U-M.

"Clinical researchers are not purposely trying to exclude women from their studies. All the more reason they need to consciously and earnestly revise their recruitment methods to give more women a chance to volunteer," Ubel says.; Source: University of Michigan