August 11th, 2011
Danger of Cigarettes Greater in Women Than in Men
Compared with men, women have a significant 25% increase in risk for coronary heart disease caused by cigarettes, according to a large meta-analysis published in the Lancet.
Rachel Huxley and Mark Woodward analyzed data from 2.4 million participants in studies that adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors and found that the female-to-male relative risk ratio (RRR) of smoking compared with not smoking was 1.25 (95% CI, 1.12-1.39; P<0.0001). For every additional year of follow-up the researchers found an additional 2% increase in the RRR for women (P=0.03).
The authors speculate that their analysis might have underestimated the true difference in relative risk between the sexes, given that in many regions women have started to smoke in large numbers only in recent years. “It will be some years before the full effect of smoking on coronary heart disease risk is known in women,” they write. In addition, women smokers tend to consume fewer cigarettes than men and may be more likely to underreport their smoking habits.
In an accompanying comment, Matthew Steliga and Carolyn Dresler observe that although in most places more men than women are smokers, more men than women quit smoking and “in some societies the number of female smokers is rising.” Further, they note, “the tobacco industry views women as its growth market.” They conclude that “targeting of both sexes is imperative for smoking prevention and cessation on a global, national, and individual basis.”