We often think that it is mostly smokers who are at risk of dying from lung disease. However, the rate among non-smokers could actually be higher, especially if you are a woman. We spoke to Dr. Shyamala Poosparajah, Consultant Physician and Respiratory Medicine Specialist at Subang Jaya Medical Centre to find more about the risk of lung disease for women.
What types of lung diseases are common among women?
Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Lung Cancer are more common in women. Women are also more likely to die from asthma compared to men. The incidence of smoking among women is rising every year, hence COPD is becoming more common in women than men since the year 2000.
It is believed that cigarette smoking (active or passive) is more damaging to women than men. In Malaysia, lung cancer – especially adenocarcinoma – is more common in women who are non-smokers.
What causes lung disease?
The exact causative factor is unknown until today, but smoke from cigarettes, cigars and exposure to biomass fuel play a main role in the causation of the disease. Environmental factors and genetics play a role here as well. Certain lung diseases (such as catamenial diseases) occur only during the menstrual cycle in some women, e.g. catamenial pneumothorax.
Who is at risk of lung disease?
Certain lung diseases, such as Influenza, occur across all ages. However, bronchial asthma can occur in childhood and persist throughout life in some individuals, while others are symptoms-free after their teenage years. Many women develop asthma during pregnancy and become well after delivery. Women between the ages of 15- 45 are prone to autoimmune diseases of the lung. Lung cancer can even occur in young women in their 20s up to 70s.