Are Women Really the Healthier Sex?
Published: Nov 12, 2013, By Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today
BALTIMORE -- Women in general are healthier than men and live longer, but the advantage comes at a price -- an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, a researcher said here.
Adult women are also at higher risk for allergies and asthma, even though young males have a higher burden of those chronic illnesses, according to Renata Engler, MD, of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.
The reasons are complicated, not well understood, and require much more research, Engler said in a plenary session at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
"The immune system of women is more robust, which favors resistance against infections and some survival venues," Engler told MedPage Today after her presentation. "The downside is autoimmune disease, which is among the top 10 killers -- and there women lose."
Physicians and researchers need to take into account differences by sex, which, Engler said at the meeting, is a biological matter of genetics, hormones, and phenotypes. But they also need to be aware of differences by gender, which is a social construct and may lead to varying opportunities, resources, access to health care, and quality of care, Engler said.
The vogue for personalized medicine, she said, needs to take into account all the complexity involved in both aspects of the issue.