Are Men at Higher Risk Than Women for Certain Health Conditions?

by Anil Keswani, MD

Men have greater risk of gout, are more likely to die from melanoma or skin cancer, and are more likely to be color blind.

Gout
Gout is a kind of arthritis caused by too much uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a chemical created by the breakdown of substances called purines, which are found in high levels in foods such as beef, pork, liver, anchovies, mackerel, and beer. When uric acid levels get too high, they may form hard crystals in the joints that lead to sudden burning pain, inflammation and stiffness lasting from a few days to weeks. Gout attacks occur most often in the big toe, but can also affect the foot, ankle and knee. Without treatment, attacks can continue, and over time the excess uric acid may cause long-term damage. Gout can be treated with dietary changes and medications.

Melanoma
In 2014 about 6,470 men and 3,240 women are expected to die of melanoma or skin cancer, and more than half of new cases will be diagnosed in men. The Skin Cancer Foundation found that just 51 percent of US men reported using sunscreen in the past 12 months, and 70 percent did not know the warning signs of skin cancer. Men can reduce their risk by using a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, reducing sun exposure, and doing a head-to-toe self-check once a month for suspicious spots or moles. In addition, get a yearly skin exam from a physician. When caught early, melanoma is often successfully treated.

Color Blindness
About one in ten men have some difficulty seeing one of the three primary colors the way everybody else sees them; for example, they can see blue and yellow but can’t distinguish between red and green, or may be unable to tell the difference between shades of color or similar colors such as pale green and gray. The differences may be so subtle that many men may not even know they have the condition. While there is no treatment available for color blindness, most people are able to compensate by using visual cues such as an object’s location or what colors surround it.

This Scripps Health and Wellness tip was provided by Anil Keswani, MD, corporate vice president of ambulatory health care and population health management.