When the liver becomes infected by hepatitis B virus, it becomes inflamed. Progression of that inflammation beyond 6 months results in chronic hepatitis B infection.
Men that are chronic carriers of hepatitis B are more likely to develop liver cancer than their female counterparts by a factor of 3 to 10. The basis for that observation was studied by some scientists on experimental animals.
The researchers used a chemical to induce the development of liver cancer in experimental mice within the same environment. At the end of the experiment, they found that whereas all the male mice developed liver cancer, only about 15% of the female mice had evidence of cancer cells in their liver.
They assumed that the effect was due to excess expression of an inflammatory protein in male mice, thus promoting the development of liver cancer.
When they eliminated the expression of an inflammatory protein, IL-6, it reduced the expression of liver cancer cells in male mice.
The researchers concluded that less inflammatory markers are produced by women than men- due to suppression of oestrogen on the production of IL-6, an inflammatory protein.
However, the fact that there was the development of liver cancer in some of the female mice suggests that additional factors play some additional role in cancer formation, other than hormonal considerations alone.
The importance of this research outcome has been the subject of consideration of using immune therapies for liver cancer.
The best approach for reduction of liver cancer in any population remains the administration of vaccines and timely treatment of patients infected by hepatitis B virus.