A review of numerous research studies focusing on smoking cessation has concluded that while women may suffer greater relative risks of smoking-related diseases than do men, they tend to have less success than men in quitting smoking. Dr. Kenneth A. Perkins from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who conducted the review offers several reasons for this disparity in a paper published in the May 2001 issue of CNS Drugs.
Dr. Perkins says that one of the intriguing observations that emerged from his review is that some forms of nicotine replacement therapy may not be as effective in women as in men. In some of the studies he reviewed, women had less treatment success using nicotine gum or nicotine patches than did men.
Women may suffer greater relative risks of smoking-related diseases than do men. For example, in one study cited by Dr. Perkins in his review, women who smoked had almost double the risk of myocardial infarction than did men. The increased risks of heart attack and stroke due to smoking are further exacerbated in women who also use oral contraceptives. Some studies have also pointed to the conclusion that women also may have nearly double the risk of lung cancer as men.
There is also some evidence that breast cancer risk may be increased among women who smoke. Smoking is associated with greater menstrual bleeding and duration of dysmenorrhea, as well as greater variability in menstrual cycle length. Women who smoke have a more difficult time becoming pregnant, and reach menopause on average a year or two younger than women who do not smoke.
Most health risks associated with smoking are reduced or eventually eliminated when smoking abstinence is maintained.