A sex-specific illness is an illness that occurs only in people of one sex. There are other sex-related illnesses that are more common to one sex, or which manifest differently in each sex.

Neither concept should be confused with sexually transmitted disease, which is a completely different concept.

Sex-related illnesses have various causes:

  • sex-linked genetic illnesses
  • parts of the reproductive system that are specific to one sex
  • social causes that relate to the gender role expected of that sex in a particular society.
  • different levels of reporting or diagnosis in each gender.

Examples of sex-related illnesses in humans:


  • prostate cancer and other diseases of the male reproductive system only occur in men
  • certain genetic diseases, such as colour blindness, occur more frequently in men. They are caused by sex-linked, recessive genes carried on the non-homologous portion of the X chromosome.
  • Men are more likely to succeed in committing suicide, and women are more likely to attempt it.