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Is Smoking Tougher on Women?
Date:10/25/2009

Research suggests they're more susceptible to dangers of tobacco

SUNDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Women may be more vulnerable than men to the carcinogens and other noxious substances in cigarette smoke, a growing body of research suggests.

In one study of nearly 700 people with lung cancer, Swiss experts found that women tended to be younger when they received the diagnosis, even though they smoked less than the men who developed lung cancer.

In another study, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Bergen in Norway evaluated more than 950 men and women with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), known to be linked to smoking. The result: The women with COPD were younger when they got the diagnosis and had smoked less than the men with the respiratory ailment.

"Maybe women are more susceptible to the lung-damaging effects of smoking," said Dr. Inga-Cecilie Soerheim, a visiting research fellow at Harvard and a researcher at the University of Bergen, who led the COPD study. She presented the findings in May at the American Thoracic Society's annual conference.

In fact, several other studies in the past 20 years have suggested that female smokers may be more susceptible to lung cancer than male smokers.

And Soerheim and her colleague, Dr. Dawn L. DeMeo, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, found that, in 2000, the number of women dying from COPD surpassed the number of men, although the researchers aren't sure why.

However, Dr. Michael Thun, the emeritus director of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society, isn't as quick to embrace the theory that women are more susceptible to lung cancer.

"The actual evidence suggests that men and women are remarkably similar in their risk of developing lung cancer -- with or without smoking," he said.

But, Thun added, "the t
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