Similarities between the pathologic progression of cancer and the physiologic process of placentation (eg, proliferation, invasion, and local/systemic tolerance) have been recognized for many years. Sex hormones such as human chorionic gonadotropin, estrogens, progesterone, and others contribute to induction of immunologic tolerance at the beginning of gestation. Sex hormones have been shown to play contributory roles in the growth of cancers such as breast cancer, prostrate cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer, but their involvement as putative mediators of the immunologic escape of cancer is still being elucidated. Herein, we compare the emerging mechanism by which sex hormones modulate systemic immunity in pregnancy and their potentially similar role in cancer. To do this, we conducted a PubMed search using combinations of the following keywords: "immune regulation," "sex hormones," "pregnancy," "melanoma," and "cancer." We did not limit our search to specific publication dates. Mimicking the maternal immune response to pregnancy, especially in late gestation, might aid in design of better therapies to reconstitute endogenous antitumor immunity and improve survival.
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