Monday, August 9, 2010
Women with cystic fibrosis are affected more by the disease than men and have a lower life expectancy
Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening disease which primarily affects the lungs and the digestive system. A build-up of mucus can make it difficult to clear bacteria and leads to lung infections and inflammation. Estrogen prevents the release of a chemical signal (IL-8) that triggers the influx of white blood cells into the lungs to fight the infection when cells are attacked by bacteria. In the lungs, a protective layer of fluid known as the airway surface liquid (ASL) keeps the lung’s lining hydrated and defends them from infection. In CF sufferers, this layer is thinner and is reduced even further at times of elevated levels of estrogen during the menstrual cycle, increasing the likelihood of acquiring an infection. Women with cystic fibrosis have on average a life expectancy three to five years less than men. Stabilizing estrogen levels or pursuing more aggressive preventative strategies against infection during the week of the four-week menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are at their highest could radically improve treatment for female CF sufferers.