Statistics Show COPD on the Rise in Women

June 7th, 2013 | Author: Sheela Cao

Women are now 37 percent more likely than men to suffer from COPD—a progressive disease that slowly takes away the ability to breathe—and now account for more than half of all deaths from COPD in the U.S., the American Lung Association reported Wednesday. Here is the report.

Once considered primarily a disease that affected men, COPD in women has increased significantly in part because of the increase in smoking by women, the report said.

As such, COPD Foundation, for the last several years, has been partnering with the Women In Government Foundation to educate their members about the burden of COPD in their communities and the role that state legislators can play in making a difference. A new partnership with the Society for Women’s Health Research will be aimed at identifying the solutions to gender disparity from a science-based perspective through a better understanding of the physiological predispositions and disease mechanisms in women.


Taken from


Explaining the Trend:

Smoking, the biggest risk factor for COPD, is believed to be partly responsible for the late boom in female deaths since 1999. Most male smokers began smoking approximately 10 years before women in the U.S., which contributed to a nearly 40 year gap between the first COPD deaths for men and women, according to Everyday Health.

We know that men smoke more than women, but women still have higher rates of COPD. This could be because women have smaller lungs than men, so if something irritates them, they have a lot more blockage. Estrogen can also increase their problems with nicotine, according to Everyday Health.

Female sex hormones cause the harmful compounds from nicotine to accumulate, causing stress and damage to the lung. This can also contribute to cigarettes being more addictive for women, and tougher to quit.

Another reason could be the wrong diagnosis. The general public, as well as some healthcare professionals, still have the impression that COPD is a man’s disease. Even when women and men had the same symptoms, men were more often correctly diagnosed with COPD, while women were incorrectly diagnosed with asthma .


Next Steps:

If you are experiencing shortness of breath, or think you may be at risk for COPD, we encourage you to take our COPD Risk Screener.  It’s a brief, five-question screener that assesses your risk. Once you finish this Screener, you ca n take it to you doctor to discuss your results. You can also visit our website for more information on getting tested.

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