Women and COPD: do we need more evidence?
The increasingly female face of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) prevalence among women has equalled that of men since 2008, due in part to increased tobacco use among women worldwide and exposure to biomass fuels. This finding is supported by a number of characteristics. There is evidence of susceptibility to smoking and other airborne contaminants, along with epidemiological and phenotypic manifestations. COPD has thus become the leading cause of death in women in the USA. The clinical presentation is characterised by increasingly pronounced dyspnoea with a marked tendency towards anxiety and depression, undernutrition, nonsmall cell lung cancer (especially adenocarcinoma) and osteoporosis. Quality of life is also more significantly impacted.
The theories advanced to explain these differences involve the role played by oestrogens, impaired gas exchange in the lungs and smoking habits. While these differences require appropriate therapeutic responses (smoking cessation, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy), barriers to the treatment of women with COPD include greater under-diagnosis than in men, fewer spirometry tests and medical consultations. Faced with this serious public health problem, we need to update and adapt our knowledge to the epidemiological changes.