Facts About Diseases/Conditions Affecting Women

Facts About Diseases/Conditions Affecting Women


  • A baby girl born in the United States in 2006 could expect to live 80.2 years; that’s 5.1 years longer than a male baby, whose life expectancy would be 75.1 years.

Arthritis/Musculoskeletal Disorders

  • Of the 46 million Americans (nearly 1 in 5 adults) estimated to have some form of arthritis in 2006, 24.3 million were women and 17.1 million were men. Arthritis is one of the most prevalent chronic health problems and the nation’s leading cause of disability among Americans over age 15. It is second only to heart disease as a cause of work disability.
  • Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, affects nearly 27 million Americans. Approximately 16 million OA sufferers are women, who usually develop the disorder after age 40.
  • Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, or 55 percent of people age 50 and older. Today, 10 million people already have the disease, 80 percent of whom are women. Another 34 million people have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis.
  • The prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis increases with age, approaching 5 percent in women over age 55. The average annual incidence in the United States is about 70 per 100,000 annually. Both incidence and prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis are two to three times greater in women than men. Although rheumatoid arthritis may start at any age, patients most commonly are first affected in their 30s to their 60s.
  • The estimated cost of arthritis to the economy annually is some $128 billion. In 2005, osteoporosis-related fractures were responsible for an estimated $19 billion in costs. By 2025, experts predict that these costs will rise to approximately $25.3 billion.

Autoimmune Diseases

  • More than 80 autoimmune diseases have been described to date. Some, such as type 1 diabetes, attack specific organs, while others, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), involve multiple organs. Although many autoimmune diseases are rare, collectively they affect up to 8 percent of the U.S. population. A disproportionate number of people with autoimmune disorders are women.
  • More than 1 million Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which strikes more people than multiple sclerosis, lupus, lung cancer, or ovarian cancer. CFS occurs four times more frequently in women than in men and in people in their 40s and 50s. CFS is at least as common among African Americans and Hispanics as it is among Caucasians.
  • Approximately 2 percent of the U. S. population has fibromyalgia, which affects predominantly women (more than 80 percent) between the ages of 35 and 55. It can occur independently or along with other diseases, such as systemic lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.Lupus affects at least 1.5 million Americans, and each year, more than 16,000 Americans develop lupus. It strikes mostly women in their childbearing years (ages 15-44).
  • Women are six to 10 times more likely to have lupus than are men. African-American women are three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasian women, and it is also more common in women of Hispanic, Asian and Native American descent. If race and sex factors are combined, a startling statistic emerges: an African-American woman is some 100 times more likely to develop lupus than is a white man.
  • Some 400,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis (MS), which strikes two to three times as many women as men. Each week, about 200 people are newly diagnosed with MS, usually between the ages of 20 and 50.
  • Between 5.8 million and 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis. The prevalence of psoriasis in African Americans is 1.3 percent and in Caucasians 2.5 percent. The overall costs of treating the disease may exceed $3 billion annually.
  • Sjögren’s syndrome is one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders, striking as many as 4 million Americans, of whom nine out of 10 are women. About half of Sjogren’s cases occur along with another connective tissue disease, primarily rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, and scleroderma.
  • Autoimmune diseases are estimated to cost the country $86 billion annually.


  • Women have a lifetime risk of a little more than 1 in 3 of developing cancer. An estimated 692,000 women were diagnosed with some form of cancer in 2008, and an estimated 271,530 died from cancer that year.
  • An estimated 182,460 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer last year. It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, excluding cancers of the skin. After continuously increasing for more than two decades, female breast cancer incidence rates decreased by 3.5 percent per year from 2001-2004. An estimated 40,480 women died from it in 2008.
  • An estimated 11,070 new cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2008. Incidence rates have decreased steadily over the past several decades in both white and African-American women. An estimated 3,870 women died from cervical cancer last year.
  • An estimated 40,100 new cases of endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterine corpus) were diagnosed in 2008, and an estimated 7,470 women died from it.
  • Women accounted for 100,330 of the 215,020 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in 2008. While the incidence rate is declining significantly in men (from a high of 102 cases per 100,000 in 1984 to 73.6 in 2004), in women the rate is approaching a plateau after a long period of increase. Still, lung cancer accounts for the most cancer-related deaths in both men and women. Since 1987, more women have died each year from lung cancer than from breast cancer. Of the estimated 161,840 lung cancer deaths in 2008, 71,030 were in women and 90,810 were in men.
  • An estimated 21,650 new cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed in 2008. It accounts for about 3 percent of all cancers among women and ranks second among gynecologic cancers. An estimated 15,520 women died from ovarian cancer in 2008.
  • The estimated overall costs for cancer in 2007 were $219.2 billion.


  • In the United States, 23.6 million people, or 8 percent of the population, have diabetes. An estimated 17.9 million have been diagnosed, but 5.7 million people are not aware that they have the disease. Another 57 million have pre-diabetes. The total prevalence of diabetes increased 13.5 percent from 2005 to 2007.
  • Among men age 20 and older, 12 million, or 11.2 percent, have diabetes, but nearly one-third of them do not know it. Among women in the same age group, 11.5 million, or 10.2 percent, have diabetes, but nearly one-fourth of them do not know it. The prevalence of diabetes is at least two to four times higher among African-American, Hispanic-American, American Indian, and Asian-Pacific Islander women than among white women.
  • The total annual economic cost of diabetes in 2007 was estimated to be $174 billion. People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures that are some 2.3 times higher than for those without diabetes. One out of every five health-care dollars is spent caring for someone with diagnosed diabetes, and one in 10 health-care dollars is attributed to diabetes.

Eye Disorders

  • Cataracts affect nearly 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older. By age 80, more than half of all Americans have cataracts.Women are more likely to develop cataracts than men, and African Americans and Hispanic Americans are at particularly high risk.
  • Nearly 5 million Americans age 50 and older are estimated to have dry eye syndrome. Of these, more than 3 million are women and more than 1.5 million are men. Tens of millions more have less severe symptoms. Dry eye is more common after menopause.
  • Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. More than 4 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half of those know they have it. Some 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for up to 12 percent of all cases of blindness in this country.
  • Glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African Americans than in Caucasians, and it is the leading cause of blindness among African Americans. African Americans ages 45-65 are up to 17 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than whites with glaucoma in the same age group.
  • Glaucoma is estimated to cost the U.S. government more than $1.5 billion annually in Social Security benefits, lost income tax revenues, and health care expenditures.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

  • As many as 20 percent of the adult population, or one in five Americans, have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), making it one of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. It occurs more often in women than in men, and it begins before the age of 35 in about 50 percent of people.
  • Some $30 billion is spent annually on IBS, excluding prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Heart Disease and Stroke

  • More than 80.7 million American adults (42.7 million women; 37.9 million men) have one or more types of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Nearly 2,400 Americans die of CVD each day, an average of one death every 40 seconds. CVD claims about as many lives each year as cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, and diabetes combined.
  • The average annual rates of first major cardiovascular events rise from 3 per 1,000 men at ages 35-44 to 74 per 1,000 at ages 85-94. For women, comparable rates occur 10 years later in life, and the gap narrows with advancing age.
  • Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries is the leading cause of illness and death in the United States. In men, the risk increases after age 45; in women, the risk increases after age 55.
  • In 2005, 16 million U.S. adults (age 20 and older) suffered from coronary heart disease (CHD) [heart attack, angina pectoris, or both]—8.7 million men; 7.3 million women. Annually, more than 1 million people are diagnosed with CHD (710,000 males; 490,000 females). Nearly half a million Americans die each year from CHD, which caused one of every five deaths in 2004. CHD comprises more than half of all cardiovascular events in men and women under age 75. The lifetime risk of developing CHD after age 40 is 49 percent for men and 32 percent for women.
  • In 2005, of the 9.1 million Americans who had angina pectoris, 4.6 million were women and 4.4 million were men. Each year, some 500,000 people are diagnosed with stable angina.
  • In 2005, 920,000 new or recurrent myocardial infarctions (MI or heart attack) occurred, and in 2004 nearly 157,000 people died. The average age of a person having a first heart attack is 64.5 for men and 70.4 for women. Within one year following a first MI, at age 40 and older, 23 percent of women and 18 percent of men will die; within five years for that same age group, 43 percent of women and 33 percent of men will die.
  • Of the 5.3 million adults living with heart failure (HF), 2.7 million are women and 2.7 million are men. At age 40, the lifetime risk of developing HF for both men and women is one in five. In 2004, 57,120 people died from HF. Eighty percent of men and 70 percent of women under age 65 who have HF will die within eight years.
  • In 2005, 73 million people (39 million females and 34 million males) had high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension). Nearly one in three adults has HBP. A higher percentage of men than women have HBP until age 45. From ages 45-54, the percentage of men and women is similar. After that, a much higher percentage of women have HBP than men do. In 2004, HBP was responsible for 54,707 deaths—31,608 females and 23,099 males. That year, the death rates for HBP were 15.7 for white males, 51 for black males, 14.5 for white females, and 40.9 for black females.
  • On average, someone in this country has a stroke every 40 seconds. In 2005, 5.8 million Americans (3.4 million females; 2.3 million males) suffered a stroke, and each year about 780,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke. On average, every three to four minutes someone dies of a stroke, which accounted for about one of every 16 deaths in 2004. That year, 150,074 people died of stroke—91,274 females and 58,800 males.
  • The estimated direct and indirect costs of CVD for 2008 were $448.5 billion.

Kidney/Urologic Disorders

  • Interstitial cystitis (IC)—also called painful bladder syndrome (PBS)—is far more common in women than in men: of the estimated 1.3 million Americans with IC, more than 1.2 million are women.
  • Overactive bladder (OAB) affects more than 34 million Americans—that’s about one in every six adults.
  • Urinary incontinence (UI) affects an estimated 38 percent of women age 60 and older, and it affects about 17 percent of men in that age group.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) account for about 8.3 million doctor visits annually. Women are especially prone to UTIs—one woman in five develops a UTI during her lifetime.
  • The 1995 societal cost of UTI for individuals age 65 and older was $26.3 billion, or $3,565 per individual age 65 and older with UTI. Most of the total cost is associated with direct treatment, such as the cost of diagnostic testing and medication, and nearly half the costs of UTI are for medical services paid by Medicare. The cost of OAB is $12.6 billion (in 2000 dollars). The cost of caring for UTI and OAB nursing facility patients is an estimated $5.3 billion. In 2000, $3.5 billion was spent on the evaluation and treatment of UTIs.

Lung/Respiratory Disorders

  • Females traditionally have consistently higher rates of asthma than have males. In 2007, females were about 8.9 percent more likely than males to ever have been diagnosed with asthma. That year, 9.5 million males and 13.4 million females had asthma. The prevalence rate in females (88.4 per 1,000 people) was 36 percent greater than the rate in males (65.2 per 1,000 people) overall and 66 percent greater in female adults over age 18 than men in the same age group (89.7 per 1,000 vs. 54.1 per 1,000).
  • Females tend to have consistently higher asthma attack prevalence rates than males. In 2007, 7.4 million females (49.2 per 1,000) had an asthma attack compared to 4.9 million males (33.4 per 1,000).
  • In 2005, 3,884 people died of asthma, and 66 percent of them were women. The female death rate was 50 percent greater than the male death rate. The age-adjusted death rate for asthma in the African-American population (3.0 per 100,000) was three times higher than the rate in the white population (1.0 per 100,000). African-American women had the highest mortality rate due to asthma in 2005 (3.3 per 100,000).
  • In 2007, the direct health care costs for asthma were $14.7 billion; indirect costs (lost productivity) added another $5 billion for a total of $19.7 billion. Prescription drugs represented the largest single direct medical expenditure at $6.2 billion.

Neurologic Disorders

  • Today, more than 5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease; 5.1 million of them are age 65 and older. Every 70 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s. In 2000, an estimated 411,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s were diagnosed. That number is expected to increase to 959,000 new cases a year by 2050.
  • In 1991, only 14,112 death certificates recorded Alzheimer’s as the underlying cause. From 2000-2006, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease increased by 47.1 percent, while heart disease, the leading cause of death, decreased by 11.5 percent.
  • In 2005, the Alzheimer’s death rate for females (33.9 per 100,000) was approximately twice that of males (14.1 per 100,000), and that relationship was seen across racial and ethnic groups. White females had the highest death rates for Alzheimer’s (44.8 per 100,000).
  • Almost 10 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and about 60 percent of those caregivers are women. In 2008, they provided 8.5 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution to the nation valued at $94 billion.
  • Alzheimer’s and dementias triple healthcare costs for Americans age 65 and older. The direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias to Medicare, Medicaid and businesses amount to more than $148 billion annually.

Obstetric/Gynecologic Conditions

  • In 2005, 62 million American women were in their childbearing years (15-44), and 62 percent of them were using a contraceptive method. Another 31 percent of those women do not need a contraceptive because they are infertile; pregnant, postpartum, or trying to become pregnant; have never had intercourse; or are not sexually active. Among the 42 million fertile, sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89 percent are practicing contraception. For women younger than age 30, birth control pills are the leading method. By age 35, more women rely on sterilization.
  • Dysmenorrhea (severe menstrual pain) is the leading cause of lost time from school and work among women in their teens and 20s.
  • An estimated 2 percent-10 percent of American women—or 5.5 million women and girls—of childbearing age have endometriosis. It is more common than AIDS, more common than cancer, and one of the three major causes of female infertility.
  • Female sexual dysfunction affects approximately 43 percent of women. There is evidence that the majority of the disorder happens after menopause when hormone production drops and vascular conditions are more common.
  • Fibrocystic changes are the most common cause of breast lumps in women ages 30 to 50. At least 60 percent of the women in their reproductive years have “lumpy” breasts as a result of these non-cancerous conditions.
  • Nationwide, at least 45 million people ages 12 and older, or 1 out of 5 adolescents and adults, have had genital herpes (herpes simplex virus type two). It is more common in women than men, infecting approximately 1 out of 4 women versus almost 1 out of 8 men.
  • Hot flashes are, by far, the most common symptom of menopause, with about 75 percent of women experiencing them. For 80 percent of women, hot flashes occur for two years or less, but for a small percentage of women hot flashes last for more than two years.
  • Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV, and another 6.2 million become newly infected each year. More than 40 HPV types can infect the genital areas of men and women, and some types cause genital warts. About 1 percent of sexually active adults in the United States have genital warts at any one time. At least half of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives.
  • Aside from AIDS, the most common and serious complication of sexually transmitted diseases among women is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In the United States, more than 1 million women experience an episode of acute PID each year, with teenagers having the highest rate of infection. More than 100,000 women become infertile each year as a result of PID.
  • The United States has the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the industrialized world. In this country alone, some 19 million new infections occur each year. Women suffer more frequent and more serious complications from STDs than men.
  • Uterine fibroids are the most common non-cancerous tumors in women of childbearing age. Some estimate that fibroids could affect as many as 77 percent of women in this country. African-American women are three to five times more likely to have fibroids than white women. Fibroids represent the most common indication for hysterectomy, accounting for 30 percent of hysterectomies in white women and more than 50 percent in African-American women.
  • Fibroids are the cause of more than 200,000 hysterectomies every year. The costs associated with hysterectomy are estimated at more than $5 billion annually.
  • Up to 40 percent of postmenopausal women have symptoms of vaginal atrophy. Despite the prevalence of symptoms, only about 25 percent of symptomatic women seek medical attention.

Psychiatric Disorders

  • Anxiety disorders, which include panic disorderobsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder, affect about 40 million American adults in a given year. Women outnumber men in each illness category, except for OCD and social phobia for which both sexes have an equal likelihood of being affected.
  • Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. The median age of onset is age 25.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects about 6.8 million adult Americans and about twice as many women as men. The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age.
  • Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for ages 15-44. It affects some 14.8 million adults or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. The disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects about 2.2 million American adults and strikes men and women in roughly equal numbers. It usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. One-third of adults with OCD develop symptoms as children.
  • Panic disorder affects about 6 million American adults and is twice as common in women as men.Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects about 7.7 million American adults. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.
  • Up to 80 percent of women of reproductive age have physical changes with menstruation. Twenty percent to 40 percent of them experience symptoms ofpremenstrual syndrome (PMS). Up to 10 percent of women in that age group have severe distress and dysfunction caused by premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a severe form of PMS.
  • Social phobia affects about 15 million American adults. Women and men are equally likely to develop the disorder, which usually begins in childhood or early adolescence.


  • Every year, severe sepsis strikes an estimated 750,000 people in the United States. The annual incidence rate of sepsis has increased 91.3 percent over the last 10 years, and it is expected to rise to 1 million by the end of the decade as the population ages.
  • Every hour, 25 people in the United States die from severe sepsis. One of every three patients who develop severe sepsis will die within a month. Severe sepsis, the leading cause of death in the non-coronary intensive care unit, takes more lives than breast, colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancers combined.
  • Septicemia, which is a state of sepsis, killed 18,814 females and 15,322 males in 2005.

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