Comparing structure of bones with osteoperosis (right) to healthy bones (left)

National Osteoporosis Month is observed every May and promoted by the National Osteoporosis Foundation.  Also known as National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, people are encouraged to understand the risk factors and preventative measures that affect bone health.  An estimated 10 million Americans are diagnosed with osteoporosis and another 44 million have low bone density, placing them at increased risk.

Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle so that they may break from mild stresses or falls, and occurs when the creation of new bone tissue doesn’t keep pace with the degradation of the existing bone. Osteoporosis affects both men and women, but is more common in women.

Approximately 80% of osteoporosis cases are found in women. Low body weight, low estrogen levels, an irregular menstrual cycle, inadequate nutrition, lack of exercise, smoking, and drinking alcohol are all risk factors of osteoporosis.  Teenage girls are encouraged to build

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This week we continue to look at gender medicine- how diseases may manifest themselves differently, and how medications may affect differently- depending on whether you are male or female.

An editorial in Nature in 2010 urged us to “put Gender on the Agenda,” as increasingly we are seeing from research results that there are distinct gender-based differences in disease incidence and activity, and treatment methods, especially medication. Cancer, for example, is the second leading cause of death among women and men, (Anderson, R.N., Deaths: Leading Causes for 2000. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2002, National Center for Health Statistics: Hyattsville, MD), however mortality rates and the disease course differ according to gender.

In looking at cancer, we see that in general, more women are screened but more men are diagnosed, and that “The gender differential in cancer incidence rates is comparable to ethnic and racial disparity in magnitude, and yet, most studies fail to look for it.” That is beginning to change with recent studies and clinical trials seeking to reduce disparities by including more women.

If we look at lung

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“Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars.” “Women think differently than men.”

These viewpoints appear to be widespread and popular, fueling spirited and on-going debate in the media and the arts, but what about healthcare and medicine?

Most medical research over the years has focused on white men as subjects, and results were then extrapolated to include everyone else. From an ethical perspective, there were some humanistic reasons for this, e.g., protecting women and children from experimental research that may not have benefited them. In many cases, however, research focused on those in positions of power. This situation is slowly but surely changing, and we are now witnessing the rise of Gender Medicine.

A very interesting article in Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, entitled “Gender Medicine: A Task for the Third Millennium,” defines gender-specific medicine as the study of how diseases differ between men and women in terms of prevention, clinical signs, therapeutic approach, prognosis, and psychological and social impact. They

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