Scientists studying how sex and gender affect health and medical outcomes delve into topics—such as female reproductive risk factors, transgender health, and how biological sex affects COVID-19 outcomes, the microbiome and opioid addiction—that haven’t always been studied extensively or well understood.
Researchers who specialize in these areas understand how much biological sex matters in research and strive to learn more about sex and gender differences in diseases of the cardiovascular, renal, endocrine and immune systems. Many gathered virtually this week at the New Trends in Sex and Gender Medicine conference.
Transgender medicine has come a long way in the past decade, but there is still much that isn’t well understood about how a person’s cardiovascular system responds to gender-affirming hormone treatment. Research has shown that trans men and women have increased risks for developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other forms of heart disease. Paying close attention to heart health—and offsetting risks with a healthy diet and exercise—is crucial, researchers explain.
Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., and more people under 55 have been dying of the disease in recent years. Researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey and the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center found in mouse studies that exercise improved gut inflammation that’s associated with colon cancer in females, but not males who followed a high-fat diet.
In 2019, more than 10 million people in the U.S. misused opioid drugs, highlighting the opioid crisis in this country. New studies on sex differences in pain and addiction find that women could be more likely to develop drug addiction and addiction-like behaviors than men. Researchers also found that lack of sleep may play a role in addiction relapse because of how the body responds to this kind of stress.
Interested in learning about more research presented at the meeting? Read about
- how parental lifestyle during pregnancy isn’t as much of a factor in offspring’s weight gain as we once thought,
- how women who identify as having both masculine and feminine characteristics choose whether to have reproductive organ-saving surgery,
- how estrogen affects exercise in mice, and
- how chronic pain and obesity are linked in teenage girls.