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COPD Prevalence, Diagnosis, and Mortality: Differences Between Women and Men

jan2020image003Women were more likely than men to be diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and had more frequent exacerbations, according to the results of a Swedish study published in the Nature Partner Journal Primary Care Respiratory Medicine.

The incidence of COPD, prevalence of asthma and other comorbidities, exacerbation risk, mortality rate, COPD-related prescriptions, and healthcare resource use were retrospectively analyzed from a large, real-world, retrospective cohort study conducted in Swedish patients with COPD.

Differences between these outcomes and sex were compared between groups.

Over the past 50 years, the prevalence of COPD among women in the United States has sharply increased. Now, COPD afflicts and kills more women than men.

“Things like breast cancer get a lot of attention, but we have many more women die of COPD every year,” Dr. MeiLan Han, MS, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Michigan and a volunteer spokesperson for the American Lung Association, recently told Healthline.

More than 7 million women in the United States are living with a diagnosis of COPD — and many more may have the condition without realizing it.

“There is some evidence that suggests women may actually be more susceptible to the effects of tobacco smoke,” Han explained. “For each cigarette smoked, the amount of function loss seems to be greater [for women]. One theory is that it’s because the lungs of women are smaller. If you can imagine, one cigarette is a larger effective dose in women versus men.”

According to the Nature Partner Journal Primary Care Respiratory Medicine, among the 101,934 medical records available, 17,479 patients were diagnosed with COPD. Among those with COPD, 54.4% were women and 45.6% were men.

The prevalence of asthma was higher in women (12.3% vs 9.4%), and women also had more frequent exacerbations than men; in fact, women had 12% higher risk for an earlier exacerbation vs. men. However, the mortality rate was found to be significantly higher in men, as women lived an average of two years longer than men from COPD diagnosis to death.

“Despite a lower mortality rate, women had higher prevalence [of] comorbidities including asthma and a higher risk of exacerbations, leading to more utilization of COPD drugs and COPD-related healthcare resources,” the researchers wrote. “In daily clinical practice, healthcare professionals in primary care play a pivotal role and should consider all these parameters in order to properly diagnose and treat women with COPD.”

For more information regarding the study, read the article on Pulmonology Advisor.