Estrogen May Boost Women's Recovery From Trauma

THURSDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Gender-specific hormones may explain why premenopausal women are more likely than men to survive severe physical injuries, say U.S. researchers.

Their analysis of national data from more than 48,000 patients who suffered severe trauma showed that women are 14% more likely to survive than similarly injured men. This difference may be due to the negative impact of male sex hormones on a stressed immune system.

The effect was limited to patients aged 13 to 64. Sex hormones haven't developed in younger patients and their activity is significantly reduced in older patients, explained the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers.

The study was published in the September issue of The Journal of Trauma.

Both women and men have estrogens (female sex hormones) and androgens (male sex hormones, including testosterone), but they have them in different ratios that change over time. After a person suffers a serious injury, sex hormones appear to have specialized roles in regulating metabolic, cardiovascular and immune reactions, the researchers said.

These findings may lead to new ways to improve survival among male trauma patients, such as giving them androgen-blocking drugs.

"Female sex hormones appear to give women better resiliency to extreme injury, while male sex hormones seem to worsen their survival after trauma," study leader Dr. Adil H. Haider, an assistant professor of surgery, said in a Hopkins news release. "And if we can find a way to manipulate those hormones in men, for example by temporarily blocking sex hormones, we may be able to improve their survival."

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Johns Hopkins, news release, Oct. 19, 2010