According to U.S. and European researchers who looked at data on 954 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients and 955 control subjects, female COPD patients under age 60 and those who had smoked fewer cigarettes over their lifetimes had more severe disease and greater lung function impairment when compared to their male counterparts.
“This means that female smokers in our study experienced reduced lung function at a lower level of smoking exposure and at an earlier age than men,” study author Inga-Cecilie Soerheim, M.D., was quoted as saying.
Why would cigarette smoke take a larger toll on women than men? While the researchers say the question has yet to be answered, there are several intriguing possibilities. For example, it could be because women have smaller airways than men and thus each cigarette does more damage. Differences in metabolism between men and women could also be coming into play, as could differences seen in genes and hormones.