Five medical conditions that affect more men than women

You might know that some conditions affect more women than men, such as osteoporosis and breast cancer, but did you know that men are at far greater risk of dying from heart disease and cancer? Read on to discover five diseases that affect more men than women...

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B5XFTX Older motherly woman pensively staring. elderly; woman; face; old; older; serious; female; retire; face; old; retirement

See also: Six best superfoods for men over 50

See also: Six best superfoods for women over 50

1. Heart disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD) accounts for the deaths or nearly one-in-six men and one-in-10 women each year in the UK. According to the British Heart Foundation, there are currently 2.3 million people living with heart disease in the UK - more than 1.4 million men and 850,000 women – and almost twice as many men as women suffer with a heart attack each year (110,000 men, compared to 65,000 women).

So are men's hearts just weaker? A study from the University of Southern California's Department of Gerontology concluded that men seem to possess hearts which wear out more quickly than women's.

There are simple ways to protect yourself. Hypertension is a leading cause of heart disease, so make sure to get your blood pressure (and cholesterol levels) checked regularly.

You're also twice as likely to have a heart attack if you smoke, so speak to your GP about support and stop-smoking medication available. Doing at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and maintaining a healthy weight will also lower your risk. And of course, drink only in moderation and eat a healthy, balanced diet.

2. Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years. The three main symptoms of Parkinson's disease are: involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body, slow movement, and stiff and inflexible muscles.

Men are 1.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than women, although scientists aren't sure why. Experts believe that men may have a genetic susceptibility to Parkinson's disease linked to the X (male) chromosome. Or it may affect more men simply because of environmental risk factors, such as greater exposure to toxic chemicals and higher rates of head injury, both of which are associated with the disease. Other experts have suggested that the female hormone oestrogen may have a protective effect on the nervous system, which accounts for why fewer females develop the disease.

Around 127,000 people in the UK have the condition. Most people with Parkinson's start to develop symptoms when they're over 50, although around 1 in 20 people with the condition first experience symptoms when they're under 40. Although there's is no cure for Parkinson's disease, there are treatments available that can help to reduce the main symptoms and maintain quality of life - so see your GP if you're concerned.

3. Autism
Men are also more likely to develop autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders than women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, boys have a one-in-52 chance of developing autism spectrum disorders (ASD), compared to a one-in-252 risk for girls.

Research published in the American Journal of Human Genetics suggests that both men and women carry gene mutations. Study author Evan Eichler, a professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, explained to "Females are better at dealing with these severe mutations and males are more at risk for having them result in disease.

"It's not necessarily an X chromosome effect, per say, but it has to do with the effect that males are more at risk for developing these diseases with fewer mutations, and for females it takes more to push them into a state of intellectual disability."

While experts aren't sure why women seem less affected by these genetic mutations, Eichler suggests that it may be because women possess two X chromosomes.

4. Skin Cancer
Men are far more likely to die from malignant melanoma – the most serious type of skin cancer – compared to women. According to Cancer Research UK, death rates amongst men are 70 per cent higher than women, despite similar numbers being diagnosed with the disease each year.

Some 6,200 men develop melanoma each year in the UK and 1,300 die from the disease, yet only 900 of the 6,600 women who develop it die.

Commenting on the gender discrepancy, Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, a Cancer Research UK dermatologist from the University of Leeds, suggested that it could be explained in part because men are more likely to be diagnosed when melanoma is at a more advanced stage.

She added: "But there also seem to be strong biological reasons behind the differences and we're working on research to better understand why men and women's bodies deal with their melanomas in different ways.

"We also know that men and women tend to develop melanoma in different places – more often on the back and chest for men and on the arms and legs for women. If melanoma does develop on your back then it may be more difficult to spot – asking your partner to check your back is a good idea."

5. Cancer in general
It's not just skin cancer that men are more likely to die from. A recent US study analysed 36 different types of tumours and blood cancers that affect both sexes and found that men have about a 1-in-2 chance of developing cancer at some point in their lives, compared with 1-in-3 chance for women.

Lung cancer kills nearly two and a half times as many men as women, while leukemia and cancers of the colon and rectum, pancreas, and liver killed about one and a half to two times as many men as women in the U.S. over a 30-year period.

Scientists aren't sure what causes the gender disparity, but suggest that it may be down to lifestyle factors in part – men tend to be heavier drinkers and smokers and less likely to see their GP than women.