New findings indicate that, in general, women's lung function improves significantly more than men's after sustained smoking cessation. Researchers previously published results showing that both men and women benefit from smoking cessation; this new analysis indicates that the benefits to the lungs are greater in women than in men.
Supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the study followed more than 5,300 middle-aged smokers for five years. All participants had mild or moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In the first year after quitting, women's lung function improved more than twice that of the men's. Among those who quit, improved lung function remained greater for women than for men throughout the study, although the differences between the genders narrowed over time. The decline in lung function in those who continued to smoke was on average similar for men and women.
Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of COPD, a slowly progressive disease of the lung that is characterized by a gradual loss of lung function. COPD is the fourth most common and the most rapidly increasing cause of death in the United States. Emphysema, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive bronchitis, or a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis are forms of COPD.