Sex differences in medicine

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Sex differences in medicine include sex-specific diseases or conditions which occur only in people of one sex (for example, prostate cancer in males or uterine cancer in females); sex-related diseases, which are diseases that are more common to one sex (for example, systemic lupus erythematosus occurs predominantly in females);[1] and diseases which occur at similar rates in males and females but manifest differently according to sex (for example, peripheral artery disease).[2] Sex differences in medicine should not be confused with gender differences. The Institute of Medicine recognizes sex differences as biological at the chromosomal level, whereas gender differences are based on self-representation and other factors including biology, environment and experience.[3] Sex differences in medicine should also not be confused with sexually transmitted diseases, which are diseases that have a significant probability of transmission through sexual contact.

Historically, medical research has primarily been conducted using the male body as the basis for clinical studies. The findings of these studies have often been applied across the sexes and healthcare providers have traditionally assumed a uniform approach in treating both male and female patients. More recently, medical research has started to understand the importance of taking sex into account as evidence increases that the symptoms and responses to medical treatment may be very different between sexes.

Sex-related illnesses have various causes:

  • Sex-linked genetic illnesses
  • Parts of the reproductive system that are specific to one sex
  • Social causes that relate to the gender role expected of that sex in a particular society.
  • Different levels of prevention, reporting, diagnosis or treatment in each gender.


Examples of sex-related illnesses and disorders in female humans:


Examples of sex-related illnesses and disorders in male humans:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ngo, ST; Steyn, FJ; McCombe, PA (August 2014). "Gender differences in autoimmune disease.". Frontiers in neuroendocrinology 35 (3): 347–69. doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2014.04.004. PMID 24793874. 
  2. ^ Barochiner, J; Aparicio, LS; Waisman, GD (2014). "Challenges associated with peripheral arterial disease in women.". Vascular health and risk management 10: 115–28. doi:10.2147/vhrm.s45181. PMID 24648743. 
  3. ^ editors, Committee on Understanding the Biology of Sex and Gender Differences; Theresa M. Wizemann and Mary-Lou Pardue, (2001). Exploring the biological contributions to human health : does sex matter? ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Washington, D.C: National Academy Press. ISBN 978-0309072816. 
  4. ^ Everyday Health > Women and Autoimmune Disorders By Krisha McCoy. Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH. Last Updated: 12/02/2009
  5. ^ Gender Differences in Alzheimer's Disease by Brian R. Ott, M.D., and Deborah A. Cahn-Weiner, Ph.D.. Geriatric Times. November/December 2001. Vol. II. Issue 6
  6. ^
  7. ^ Newschaffer CJ, Croen LA, Daniels J et al. The epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders [PDF]. Annu Rev Public Health. 2007;28:235–58. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.144007. PMID 17367287.