This brief summarizes the contributions of Kaiser Permanente Research since 2007 on the topic of men’s health. Although men’s health encompasses a wide range of health issues, this brief will focus on specific conditions affecting men (such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and erectile dysfunction), as well as certain conditions for which men have specific or elevated risks (such as infertility, hypogonadism, bladder cancer, cardiovascular disease, back pain, and opioid use disorders).
Men in the United States are at risk for a variety of acute and chronic health problems. Approximately 1 in 9 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point, making it the second-most common cancer among American men, and the American Cancer Society estimated that over 30,000 men died of this disease in 2019.1 Testicular cancer is less common than prostate cancer, affecting 1 in every 250 males, but it typically affects much younger men and boys, with an average age at diagnosis of just 33.1 In addition, more than three-quarters of the 80,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with bladder cancer this year are men, and nearly 13,000 men were expected to die from this cancer in 2019.1 Men are also more likely than women to suffer from common chronic illnesses. Cardiovascular disease causes 1 of every 4 deaths in men, and a large majority of sudden cardiac events occur in men.2 Furthermore, men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with opioid use disorders.3
Many of the health problems men face can significantly affect quality of life. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland often leading to urinary health problems, is a very common condition, affecting more than 14 million men.4 Erectile dysfunction also affects approximately 20% of men, and becomes more common with age: One study estimated that ED is experienced by 5% of men under 40, but 70% of men 70 and older.5 ED often occurs in men with low testosterone, or hypogonadism, which is estimated to affect 6% of Americans.6,7 Infertility is an issue for 1 in 6 couples in the United States, and male infertility is implicated in two-thirds of all cases.8 Moreover, while low back pain is more common in women,9 men are much more likely to be prevented from working by this pain.10
Men’s health is an active area of study for Kaiser Permanente Research. Scientists across the organization have used our rich, comprehensive, longitudinal data to advance knowledge in the areas of understanding risk, improving patient outcomes, and translating research findings into policy and practice. We have published more than 400 articles related to men’s health since 2007.11 Together, these articles have been cited nearly 12,500 times. These articles are the product of observational studies, randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and other studies led by Kaiser Permanente scientists. Our unique environment — a fully integrated care and coverage model in which our research scientists, clinicians, medical groups, and health plan leaders collaborate — lets us contribute generalizable knowledge on men’s health, and many other topics of research.