Study: Quitting smoking more beneficial for women
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Women who smoke have one more reason to quit: They regain significantly more lung function than men who quit, researchers have found.
The researchers aren't quite sure why, but they believe it's because women have narrower airways. Smoking causes the airways to swell, restricting airflow.
"Women seem to be subject to more problems when they smoke," said professor John Connett, head of the biostatistics division at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health. "What we see here is the other side of the coin. When they quit, they benefit more than men do. It's one reason why doctors should tell women to quit."
When the study began, all participants had some level of lung function impairment, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is the fourth leading killer in the United States, and the death rate among women has doubled since the 1980s, largely as the result of smoking.
Joy Carmona, director of public policy for the American Lung Association of Minnesota, said the study, which was published in the June edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, is "very good news. It is one more reason why women should try to stop smoking, among all the others."
In the study, researchers from nine centers in the United States and one in Canada measured the changes in lung function in nearly 6,000 people over a five-year period. They found that all smokers who quit experienced beneficial increases in lung function, but women who quit showed a significant increase in function over men who quit. The benefits held even after adjustments were made for such factors as baseline lung function, smoking level, age and body mass index.
Connett pointed out that it's harder for women to quit smoking because they tend to gain more weight, which further impairs lung function. But the lung function they gain from quitting surpasses the lung function they lose to those extra pounds, he added.
One of the 10 study centers was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Connett and his School of Public Health colleagues collected and analyzed all the data.