Is medicine a woman's world, asks a British medical journal that questions whether the rising number of women in medicine is leading to overfeminization of the profession.

In the UK, female doctors are set to outnumber their male counterparts by 2017, a trend that British press headlines have dubbed "worrying" and "bad for medicine."

An editorial by Maham Khan in this week's issue of Student British Medical Journal suggests femininization is a fact but the rise of female doctors is bridging the gender divide.

"For 500 years men have dominated the medical profession and that has been seen as the status quo, but as soon as there's a sniff of women dominating the profession there is a crisis," Jane Dacre, medical school director at University College, London, said in the journal article.

"I don't think we have yet reached an era of feminization. What we are doing is reaching equality."

Men 'endangered species' in medicine

Many studies suggest women dominate in specialties such as general practice, pediatrics and palliative care with far fewer female doctors working in fields such as cardiology and surgery.

Professors interviewed by Khan said that women are not reaching the highest positions in medicine for a variety of potential reasons, including fewer women applying for distinction awards and limited access to top jobs.

Other questions Khan posed were "why are men becoming an endangered species in medicine?" and how could it be tackled?

Will Coppola of University College London told Khan boys are underacheiving at school and medicine is a less attractive career for men who are opting for finance and information technology instead. He suggested having more male graduate students apply to medical school to help bridge the gap.

Khan suggested that a female future for medicine could actually lead to safer practice.

A review of complaints received by the National Clinical Assessment Service showed women were less likely to be subject to disciplinary hearings, she said. Over eight years, 490 male doctors were banned from seeing patients compared with 79 women.

In Canada, new doctors, both male and female, tend to work fewer hours and see fewer patients, according to a report last year by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.