Biologically, mentally, and physiologically, men and women have differences that distinctly identify each sex. For instance, we know that there are certain diseases that only men can develop and the same is true of women – prostate cancer is only diagnosed in men while uterine cancer is only diagnosed in women.
But, there are certain diseases we tend to associate as only being a ‘woman’s disease, yet men can also be diagnosed with these same conditions, even though at much lower rates. Here’s a look at diseases women are more likely to develop but their impact on men may often be more devastating. Knowing this information makes it more imperative that men having symptoms of these diseases, should discuss them with their primary care physician right away for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
The overwhelming majority of breast cancer cases are found in women – in fact, women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than a man is. While the disease is rare in men, for the year 2021, it’s estimated 2,650 American men will be diagnosed with breast cancer according to the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, developing breast cancer is not on most men’s radar, so by the time a man is diagnosed with the disease, it’s already at a more advanced stage.
What men should know: Symptoms of breast cancer in men include a painless lump or thickening in breast tissue; changes to skin covering the breast such as dimpling, puckering, redness or scaling; changes to the nipple such as redness or scaling, is turning inward or has discharged.
Risk factors increasing a man’s chance for breast cancer include:
- Older age past 60
- Exposure to estrogen
- Family history of breast cancer including women with BRCA1 and BRCA2
- Klinefelter syndrome
- Liver disease
- Testicle disease or surgery
Brittle bones or osteoporosis are strongly associated with older, fracture-prone women suffering from this disease. But men can and do develop osteoporosis but at much lower rates. Only one in five men will get osteoporosis in their lifetime. But, by the time men are in their mid-60s and 70s, they are losing bone mass at the same rate as women of about 0.5 percent each year, increasing their risk of bone fractures. Since men tend to be older when diagnosed with osteoporosis, the consequences of a fracture can be more severe leading to physical disabilities such as loss of mobility.
What men should know: Certain medications men may be prescribed can impact bone negatively. These medications include proton pump inhibitors prescribed for reflux, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that treat depression. Men should work with their doctor on how to counteract possible bone loss from using these medications, along with engaging in strength training and consuming rich sources of calcium each day from dairy foods – milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese.
Research shows that autoimmune diseases like celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are twice as likely to affect women as men. Despite this diagnosis difference, men can develop autoimmune diseases. However, symptoms men may have can be different or maybe ignored from symptoms women experience.
What men should know: First, men should know their family medical history. Are there relatives who have autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis? Also, men need to pay attention to symptoms that might indicate an autoimmune disease – always feeling tired, pain and/or swelling in joints, swollen glands, skin discoloration or rashes, digestive issues, unexplained weight loss, or numbness in the limbs. Any man with these symptoms should see their doctor for a thorough exam to rule out any autoimmune disease.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection among American men and women. Approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Most men and women – about 80 percent of sexually active people – are infected with HPV at some point in their lives, and most people never know they have the virus. For women, certain strains of HPV can cause changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer. That’s why women should have regular Pap tests to help detect these possible changes. For men, HPV infection generally causes no symptoms making diagnosis difficult unless they have genital warts appearing on the penis, scrotum, groin, or in or around the anus.
What men should know: There is no approved HPV screening for men but there are steps men can take reducing their risk of this infection or passing it on to others:
- Get the HPV vaccine if you are between the ages of 11 to 26 to protect against genital warts and certain cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, the HPV vaccine is most effective in early adolescence but starts to decrease by age 18, making it unlikely to provide many benefits for cancer prevention as people get older.
- Wait to take part in sexual activity until you are ready
- Be in a mutually monogamous sexual relationship
- Reduce the number of sexual partners
- Use a latex condom correctly