Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Estrogen May Improve Colon Cancer Survival

Younger Women With Advanced Disease Live Longer
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 29, 2009 -- Younger women with advanced colon cancer live slightly longer than younger men with advanced disease, but the survival advantage disappears as women age and their estrogen levels drop, a new study shows.

Previous research suggests a role for the female hormone in protecting against colorectal cancer. Women are less likely than men to get the disease, and they tend to be diagnosed later in life.

The new study is the first to suggest that estrogen also improves outcomes in premenopausal women and that it may help cancer treatments work better, researcher Heinz-Josef Lenz, MD, of the University of Southern California tells WebMD.

“Young women seem to be benefiting more from the latest, aggressive treatments for colorectal cancer than young men are,” says Lenz, who co-directs the colorectal cancer center at USC’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center/Keck School of Medicine.

Estrogen May Help Chemo Work

About 150,000 new cases of colon or rectal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and nine out of 10 cases will occur in people over the age of 50, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

When younger adults do get colorectal cancer, some studies suggest the disease may be more aggressive.

In the newly published research, Lenz and colleagues analyzed data from a large national cancer registry that included about 53,000 patients with advanced colorectal cancer who were diagnosed and treated between 1988 and 2004.

On average, women younger than age 45 lived longer than men of the same age -- 17 months vs. 14 months.

Survival times were about equal for women and men between the ages of 45 and 54. But as a group, older women (55 years and older) with cancer that had spread beyond the colon or rectum had a shorter survival than men -- seven months vs. nine months.

The survival advantage among young women was seen in all ethnic groups, and the gender disparity was greatest among younger patients treated after 1999.

The study appears in the Oct. 15 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

“Up until eight or nine years ago we had only one drug (5-fluorouracil) to treat colorectal cancer,” Lenz says. “Now we have many more treatment options and this research suggests that young women benefit more from these drugs than men.”

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
The right diagnosis is the most important factor.
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
bladder cancer x-ray
Do you know the warning signs?
Colon vs Rectal Cancer
New Colorectal Treatments
can lack of sleep affect your immune system
Cancer Facts Quiz
Virtual Colonoscopy
Picture of the Colon
Vitamin D