Two decades ago, the inclusion of women in biomedical research was mandated by law but sex-specific research is still not the norm.

As a result, many women receive recommendations from their doctors for prevention strategies, diagnostic tests and medical treatments that may not have included women adequately. There is no evidence treatment has been worse due to that - and no one can force women to participate in studies - but diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and depression disproportionately affect women, which raises questions about the impact of research on women’s health.   

The gap  the authors of a new report found, occurs at the early stages of research, when females may be excluded from animal studies (why are males discriminated against? Are female mice just sitting around while millions of males are experimented on?) or don't participate in early human studies - in fairness to researchers, the sex of the subject sometimes isn’t stated in the published results.

Yet regardless of why, the measurement of outcomes may be inequitable because sex and gender differences are not included. 

Among the findings of the new report:

  • Cardiovascular Disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, yet less than one-third of cardiovascular clinical trial subjects are female and less than one-third of cardiovascular clinical trials that include women report outcomes by sex.
  • More women die of lung cancer each year than from breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers combined; however, even when lung cancer studies include women, researchers often fail to analyze data by sex or include hormone status or other gender-specific factors, making it difficult to uncover differences in incidence, prevalence, and survivability between men and women.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disease burden in women worldwide. Twice as many women than men suffer from depression in the U.S., yet fewer than 45 percent of pre-clinical studies on anxiety and depression use female animals.
  • Even though a woman’s overall lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is almost twice that of a man, the prevailing thinking in the field is that this is simply because women live longer. However, the impact of hormonal changes at menopause and sex differences in gene expression have begun to emerge as potential explanations.

Rreport: "Sex Specific Medical Research: Why Women’s Health Can’t Wait," -