Column: Facts about gender and health

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Commentary by Lena Franklin, MD

It’s common knowledge that ovarian cancer and prostate cancer are two diseases specific to women and men, respectively.

Men can get breast cancer, but it’s far more likely to occur in women. Men and women are susceptible to certain diseases based on the biological and anatomical differences between them. And while gender increases the risk of certain health conditions, diseases often present differently in women and men too.

One example is heart disease – a condition that’s more prevalent in men. While men are more likely to die from a heart attack early in life, women are more prone to “silent” heart attacks, which occur without chest pain or other telltale symptoms. Perhaps because women tend to live longer, they are also more likely to suffer a stroke, the risk of which increases with age. Osteoporosis is another disease that is more common in women. After menopause, they are five times more likely to get the disease than men.

When it comes to drinking alcohol, men are two times more likely to binge drink than women. Men are more likely to require hospitalization due to heavy or binge drinking and are more likely to die from it. In terms of cancer, lung and colon cancer strike men more often than women.

While these gender differences and related statistics can be interesting, it’s important to remember disease and health issues can impact anyone. That’s why most primary care physicians recommend that adults see their doctor at least once a year for a physical. It’s during these more comprehensive visits that your doctor can discuss risk factors, family history and any symptoms you may be experiencing. He or she can also determine what preventive tests and screenings you may need so any diseases or health issues can be treated as soon as possible.

Lena Franklin, MD, specializes in family medicine. She is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Family & Internal Medicine and can be reached by calling the office at 317.865.6750.  For more health information, subscribe to Strength in You at iuhealth.org/StrengthInYou.


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