Biological sex and sociocultural gender represent major sources of diversity among patients, and recent research has shown the association of sex and gender with health. A growing body of literature describes widespread associations of sex and gender with cells, organs, and the manner in which individual patients interact with health care systems. Sex- and gender-informed medicine is a young paradigm of clinical practice and medical research founded on this literature that considers the association of sex and gender with each element of the disease process from risk, to presentation, to response to therapy.
Characteristics that underlie sex and gender involve both endogenous and exogenous factors that change throughout the life course. This review details clinical examples with broad applicability that highlight sex and gender differences in the key domains of genetics, epigenomic modifiers, hormonal milieu, immune function, neurocognitive aging process, vascular health, response to therapeutics, and interaction with health care systems. These domains interact with one another in multidimensional associations, contributing to the diversity of the sex and gender spectra. Novel research has identified differences of clinical relevance with the potential to improve care for all patients.
Conclusions and Relevance
Clinicians should consider incorporating sex and gender in their decision-making to practice precision medicine that integrates fundamental components of patient individuality. Recognizing the biological and environmental factors that affect the disease course is imperative to optimizing care for each patient. Research highlights the myriad ways sex and gender play a role in health and disease. However, these clinically relevant insights have yet to be systematically incorporated into care. The framework described in this review serves as a guide to help clinicians consider sex and gender as they practice precision medicine.
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Bartz D, Chitnis T, Kaiser UB, et al. Clinical Advances in Sex- and Gender-Informed Medicine to Improve the Health of All: A Review. JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.7194
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