Autumn 2004 / Leading Edge
Tobacco-Induced Lung Damage Now Women’s Issue

COPD outstripping breast cancer as cause of death of Canadian women


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will kill more women in Canada this year than breast cancer, says Dr. Kenneth R. Chapman, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

COPD is characterized by a permanent narrowing of the breathing tubes, and 90 per cent of cases are caused by smoking. Women may be more susceptible to COPD because of their small airway size, according to Dr. Chapman’s research published in Clinics in Chest Medicine. Females also develop emphysema and other types of COPD at an earlier age than men and experience a greater degree of lung damage than men who smoke.

“The data has been there for some time, but nobody picks it up and talks about it,” says Dr. Chapman, who is also a physician in the Asthma and Airway Centre at Toronto Western Hospital. “It’s astonishing how little research and fundraising energy is devoted to COPD.”

By 2010, COPD will be the third most common cause of death around the world, and twice as many women as men will suffer from it, he says.


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