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A sex-specific illness is an illness or disease that occurs only in people of one sex.

In a more general sense, sex-related illnesses are illnesses that are more common to one sex, or which manifest differently in each sex. For example, certain autoimmune diseases may occur predominantly in one sex, for unknown reasons. 90% of primary biliary cirrhosis cases are women, whereas primary sclerosing cholangitis is more common in men.

Neither concept should be confused with sexually transmitted diseases, which are diseases that have a significant probability of transmission through sexual contact.

Sex-related illnesses have various causes:


Examples of sex-related illnesses in female humans:

  • 99% of breast cancer occurs in women.
  • Ovarian cancer, and other diseases of the female reproductive system occur only in women. Endometriosis, another female reproductive disorder occurs almost exclusively in women, but has rarely been found in men undergoing estrogen treatment for prostate cancer.
  • More women than men suffer from osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as Sjögren's syndrome and scleroderma, are more prevalent in women. An estimated 75 percent of those living with autoimmune diseases are female.[1]
For more information on sex and autoimmune diseases, see Autoimmunity.


Examples of sex-related illnesses in male humans:

See also[]


  1. Everyday Health > Women and Autoimmune Disorders By Krisha McCoy. Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH. Last Updated: 12/02/2009
  2. Gender Differences in Alzheimer's Disease by Brian R. Ott, M.D., and Deborah A. Cahn-Weiner, Ph.D.. Geriatric Times. November/December 2001. Vol. II. Issue 6
  4. Newschaffer CJ, Croen LA, Daniels J et al. The epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders [PDF]. Annu Rev Public Health. 2007;28:235–58. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.144007. PMID 17367287.