Higher levels of estrogen during ovulation may explain why women with cystic fibrosis tend to fare worse than men with the respiratory disease, researchers at the University of North Carolina report.
The authors of the study suggest that drugs that reduce estrogen levels, such as tamoxifen, might be helpful in fighting this devastating disease. The evidence is still preliminary, however.
“There’s not an immediate clinical connection to this,” said Dr. Michael Konstan, director of the Cystic Fibrosis Center. “We need to understand a lot more about the role estrogen plays in cystic fibrosis. What this clearly does is raise our awareness that there are sex-related differences.”
Women with cystic fibrosis tend to have worse disease and shorter life spans than men. Although members of both genders generally now live into their 30s, men live an average of about three years longer, said senior study author Robert Tarran.
That gap has narrowed, largely thanks to more aggressive infection treatment in women.
People with cystic fibrosis have mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene, which reduces the ability of chloride ions to travel across cell membranes, the researchers said.
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