7 Conditions That Affect Men More than Women
By Brianna McCabe
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) only affects women. Prostate cancer only affects men.
Now let’s put aside certain sex-specific health conditions and diseases.
For all other diseases that can affect individuals of both sexes, it is important to realize that some conditions can be sex-biased, meaning that the rate of occurrence is more prevalent in one sex versus the other.
That’s right, some diseases you are at a higher risk for given the pairing of your sex chromosomes. (You can thank your mom and dad for this one.)
Our experts at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group outline some of the most common conditions affecting more men than women:
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
What is AAA?
David Armstrong, D.O., board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease, explains that an AAA is an abnormal enlargement of the abdominal portion of the aorta, which runs from your heart through the center of your chest and abdomen.
As the largest blood vessel in the body, the aorta supplies blood to the body. Normally, the abdominal aorta is about 2 cm in diameter, whereas an AAA is 1.5 times that size—or at least 3 cm. Over time, an AAA can rupture or burst and cause life-threatening complications.
Men are 4-15 times more likely to develop an AAA than women, notes Dr. Armstrong. “Research is still ongoing as to why fewer incidents of AAAs are seen in women,” he says. “One hypothesis is that there may be a protective effect of estrogen on certain cells that make up the wall of the aorta.”
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms such as abdominal pain, back or flank pain can be signs of AAA, as well as unexplained pain or swelling in the legs. Dr. Armstrong warns, “The majority of people have no symptoms which is why AAA can be so dangerous.”
How to prevent it:
Screenings are recommended for men between the ages of 65-75 who have ever smoked in their lifetime (having smoked 100 cigarettes or more) or for anyone with a family history of an AAA rupture or repair.
“Stop smoking!” Dr. Armstrong advocates. “Eat healthy, exercise, maintain a healthy weight and treat elevated blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes.”
What are the symptoms?
Mostly characterized by swollen and painful joints, gout is more frequently diagnosed in men. This can perhaps be related to genetics and diet. The condition is associated with higher intakes of alcohol, shellfish and organ meats. Additional risk factors include hypothyroidism, obesity, genetics and age—with peak incidents occurring at the age of 75.
What is gout?
Known as a crystal deposition of uric acid into a joint, gout is a common and complex form of arthritis. Think of it as the sugar that sits in the bottom of your glass of iced tea. If there’s too much sugar, it sinks to the bottom and sits there. Now replace the sugar with uric acid and the glass with your joints.
How to treat it:
Like some other diseases, it is viewed as a silent disease. You are not always aware that you have it until you have it. Once diagnosed through blood work or joint aspiration—a procedure used to extract fluid from the joints—though, he notes that it is easily treated with hydration, anti-inflammatory medication and prescribed medication to lower uric acid level.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
What is HIV?
It is estimated that 1.1 million people aged 13 years or older are living with HIV in the United States, with 76% of those individuals being male. Of those males, 69% identify as gay, bisexual or as men who have had sex with other men.
Edward Liu, M.D., board certified in internal medicine and infectious disease, explains that HIV is transmitted by sexual contact and injection drug use. Sexually transmitted infection (STIs) can also increase the likelihood of acquiring HIV, he notes.
How to prevent it:
Condom use, regular screenings for STIs and pre-exposure prophlyaxis (PrEP)—the use of HIV antivirals by a person to prevent HIV infection from an HIV-infected partner—can reduce the likelihood of HIV infection.
What causes kidney stones to develop?
Typically symptomless until they move within the kidney or pass into the ureter, kidney stones tend to develop more often in men then in women. “It is possible that dehydration and diet may be responsible for this disparity,” shares Ravi Munver, M.D., Vice Chair of Urology and Chief of Minimally Invasive and Robotic Urologic Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center.
According to Dr. Munver, a high protein and high salt diet make kidney stones more likely to develop—and men tend to have a greater intake of both. “In addition, dehydration plays a significant role in kidney stone formation. Historically more men are active outdoors with work, athletics and at the gym,” he continues. “If they do not stay hydrated, this can also be a contributing factor.”
Are kidney stones painful?
Those passing a kidney stone may experience symptoms such as severe pain in the side and lower back, pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin, nausea, bloody or discolored urine, cloudy or foul-smelling urine or fever or chills if an infection is present.
Ways to prevent kidney stones:
In an attempt to prevent kidney stones from developing, Dr. Munver advises reducing dietary salt, animal protein and oxalates, while also increasing hydration and intake of citrus fruits.
Reasons why men have a higher risk of lung cancer:
“If you look at the lifetime risk of developing lung cancer, encompassing both smokers and non-smokers, men have a 1 in 15 chance of developing the disease, whereas women have a 1 in 17 chance,” says Ziad Hanhan, M.D., FACS, director of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery at Bayshore Medical Center and Riverview Medical Center. According to Dr. Hanhan, there are more reports of tobacco use amongst men—and 80-90% of lung cancer cases develop in individuals with a significant smoking history.
Additionally, Dr. Hanhan notes that men have an increased exposure to asbestos, diesel exhaust fumes, radon and uranium—likely a result of occupational and environmental exposure—and can cause lung cancer.
Signs of lung cancer:
Though not diagnostic, Dr. Hanhan says that the most common signs of lung cancer consist of a persistent cough, coughing up blood, hoarseness, unintended weight loss and unexplained fatigue.
“Though obvious, it’s worth stating again and again—quit smoking,” Dr. Hanhan states. “It is the single most important thing that a person could do to lower his or her chances. That, and early detection.”
Parkinson’s disease (PD).
What is Parkinson’s disease?
A progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement, PD is caused by the gradual breakdown of neurons in the brain—which then decreases dopamine levels. Research has shown that lower levels of dopamine eventually cause abnormal brain activity, leading to symptoms of PD. Individuals with PD may experience tremors, slowed movement, impaired posture, loss of automatic movements, speech changes, limb rigidity and balance problems.
“Though only speculative, women may not be as likely to develop Parkinson’s due to the potential of estrogen protecting the body,” says Florian Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Neuroscience Institute and the Department of Neurology at Hackensack University Medical Center and at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall.
Another theory, notes Dr. Thomas, refers to genetic factors linked to the X chromosome, of which women have two but men have one. He explains, “So women may be relatively protected from certain conditions because, if one X chromosome carries a suboptimal version of a gene, the other X chromosome can compensate for that. Men, on the other hand, with their single X chromosome would be stuck with that bad gene.”
Is there a cure?
Though a cure for PD does not exist, medications and rehabilitation can help manage symptoms and improve an individual’s quality of life, and some patients may benefit from surgical procedures, such as deep brain stimulation.
Why is skin cancer more common in men?
Alexis Young, M.D., a board certified dermatologist, says that the rate of melanoma has increased the most in men over the age of 50. “Although we do not fully understand the reasons for this, including possible differences in the biology of male versus female skin, we do believe that women tend to engage in healthier sun protection behavior and present to the dermatologist earlier for annual skin cancer screening examinations,” she explains.
Ways to prevent skin cancer:
Young cautions men to wear photo-protection including broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and photo-protective clothing. “Don’t forget to apply sunblock to the ears, too!” she adds.
According to the dermatologist, some men complain that they do not like the texture of sunscreen on their skin—therefore avoiding it altogether. She counteracts, “I encourage them to try different formulations. There has been a revolution in the consistency of sunblocks available on the market. Many now have a very elegant formulation which don't feel like glue or cause a burning sensation.”
“Men need to take ownership of their health care needs,” counsels Dr. Hanhan. “Often, men defer to women in their lives to make doctor appointments. When it comes to some of these conditions, though, men need to seek out their physicians and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to get screened.’ Be your own advocate.”
Dr. Armstrong is located at a cardiology practice with locations in both Glen Ridge and Verona. Dr. Liu is located at an infectious disease practice in Neptune. Dr. Munver is located at a urology practice in Hackensack. Dr. Hanhan is located at a thoracic surgery practice with locations in both Holmdel and Red Bank. Dr. Thomas is located at a neurosurgery practice in Hackensack. Dr. Young is located in Paramus.
To find a provider near you, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.
American Academy of Dermatology
American Cancer Society
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Medical News Today