More women are dying from COPD than breast and lung cancer combined, according to a new report

The report, co-authored by Professor Christine Jenkins from The George Institute for Global Health, highlights the need for a new approach to tackling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Published in the March 2017 issue CHEST, it reveals increasing evidence of sex-related difference when it comes to the risk of COPD.

According to researchers, the evidence suggests that:

  1. Women are being misdiagnosed more than men.
  2. While women smoke less than men, they are at risk of greater harm of COPD by smoking.
  3. Women with COPD are generally younger than their male counterparts.
  4. Rates of COPD are rising due to more women now working in once traditional male occupations, such as unregulated cottage industries including textiles.
  5. Women suffering from COPD are more likely to be from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
  6. More women than men are exposed to biomass fuels – such as from cooking – which raises their risk of contracting COPD.

There is an urgent need to improve the awareness of increased risk of COPD in women, say the authors.

“The disease receives scant attention as a women’s health issue,” they write.

“A multifaceted approach is required to address COPD in women, including greater awareness, minimisation of risk, and further elucidation of the sex-specific factors (biological and cultural) that affect risk, disease profession, and treatment success.”

They add that a “tailored pharmaceutical approach” based on sex-specific differences in symptoms and health status is needed moving forward.