Light smoking may harm women more than men

 Image: PD

1. Compared to men, women who smoked between 1-14 cigarettes per day were at higher risk of developing negative complications.

2. Differences in risk between men and women disappeared as smoking exposure increased.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: This study investigated differences in the effects of smoking exposure in men and women. Using relative risk ratios, researchers found that light smoking in women (n=1911), compared to men (n=1548), was more harmful and led to increased risk of all-cause mortality (Light smoking was determined to be 1-14 cigarettes per day). However, as exposure increased to heavy smoking (>25 cigarettes per day), the difference in outcome between genders lost significance.

This cohort study is unique because of its length of follow-up (42 years) and the high degree of control within the study. The cohort was comprised of cotton mill workers in the UK, a full-time vocation wherein both men and women adhere to similar work schedules and have similar responsibilities. Additionally, the study used an individual relative survival approach to adjust for varying health risks and age during the beginning of the study. These characteristics provide a unique and valuable data set that will likely be useful in looking at a number of other data points as well.

Click to read the study in BMC Public Health

Relevant Reading: Women who smoke like men die like men who smoke: findings from two Australian cohort studies

In-Depth [cohort study]: There were 3500 total UK cotton mill workers enrolled in this cohort from 1966 to 1970 and followed until 2007. Workers hailed from 52 mills across the country and were medically examined upon entry using baseline lung function tests and a questionnaire to determine smoking exposure. Within the cohort the smoking exposure between both men and women was fairly even as were ages. The majority of workers were employed at the mill for between 11 and 40 years. Analysis of the data found that relative risk ratios, for female to male, revealed a significantly elevated risk for light smoking in women (1.35; 95% CI: 1.07 – 1.70). These findings contradict earlier research that found health risks to be similar when evaluating both gender and smoking exposure variables.

By Jordan Anderson and Andrew Bishara

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