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BMJ. 2007 June 16; 334(7606): 1240.
PMCID: PMC1892501

Mortality from 12 top causes of death in US is still higher among men than women

Mortality is higher among men than women for all the 12 leading causes of death in the United States, a new report shows.

Also, the incidence of most types of cancer is higher among men, who lose 16% more years of potential life before the age of 75 to cancer than women do, the study found.

“Males still experience higher mortality rates than females at all stages of life from conception to old age,” says the report, which was published in the Journal of Men's Health & Gender (doi: 10.1016/j.jmhg.2007.01.010).

The study, which was based on data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication Health, United States, 2006, found that the sex difference begins at conception, when 125 boys are conceived for every 100 girls. By birth the ratio has dropped to 105 boys to 100 girls. By their mid-30s women begin to outnumber men, and by the age of 100 women outnumber men by a ratio of four to one.

Although the incidence of heart disease and stroke is similar in men and women, men lose many more years of life to these diseases than women do, because they tend to have heart attacks and strokes earlier than women do.

“The years of potential life lost [to stroke] before the age of 75 is 20% higher for men than for women, ie men tend to die of stroke at younger ages than women,” write the authors, from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. “A similar phenomenon is seen with acute myocardial infarction, which actually occurs more often in women than in men, but at a later age . . . Men lose approximately 2.3 times more years of potential life before age 75 from coronary heart disease compared to women.”

Their analysis shows that mortality from coronary artery disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, flu and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV, motor vehicle crashes, homicide, suicide, trauma, liver disease, and cancer are all higher in men. Mortality from all causes is also higher.

In addition, the incidence of lung, colorectal, pharynx, stomach, pancreas, and bladder cancers and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukaemia are also higher in men. The incidence of cancer in all sites is 46% higher in men than in women.

“These discrepancies between the health of US men and women are striking and call for explanation,” says the report. “It has been maintained that impulsiveness and risky behaviours on the part of men explain the differences. However, this clearly does not explain the differential mortality of male fetuses, and the same can probably be said for young boys, who are more like to die than young girls. At the other extreme of life, old men are more likely to die of hip fracture than old women. Again, risk-taking behaviour would seem to be irrelevant to the problem of recovery from hip surgery.

“Thus, a good explanation for these differences in mortality rates is lacking. These discrepancies have been noted in many countries, and are an important topic for serious research, hopefully leading to future elucidation of the causes and cure for this major public health issue.”


Articles from The BMJ are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group