Why are women at increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer? Is inflammation the missing link?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term for a group of respiratory diseases—such as chronic bronchitis or emphysema—in which there is chronic obstruction of airflow through the airways and lung damage. In Canada, despite the fact that more men smoke than women, the rates of chronic COPD and lung cancer in women are expected to exceed those in men within the next five years. Dr. Donald Sin is investigating why women seem more susceptible than men to COPD and lung cancer. His research proposes that women mount a more vigorous inflammatory reaction to cigarette smoke and environmental irritants than men, resulting in chronic lung and systemic inflammation that can lead to COPD and in some cases, lung cancer. Dr. Sin is comparing sex-related differences in the relationship between lung and systemic inflammation and the development of lung cancer. His research will not only shed light on why women are more susceptible to COPD and lung cancer compared to men, but may also be an important foundation for developing medications to reduce the risk.