COPD deaths increase among women

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Between 2000 and 2005, the number of annual deaths in the United States due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) rose by 8 percent, an increase driven primarily by climbing mortality rates among women with the disease, according to a report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Data were related in advance of World COPD Day on November 19, the goal of which is to raise awareness of this growing global public health problem.

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD — most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke, but it is also associated with long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution and chemical fumes.

The two main components are emphysema and chronic obstructive bronchitis, which both damage the walls of the lung, making it hard to breathe.

Dr. D. W. Brown and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System to update national estimates of deaths from COPD among adults 25 years older or years between period 2000-2005.

The estimated number of deaths due to COPD in 2005 was 126,005, up from 116,494 deaths in 2000, the report indicates. The annual number of deaths increased 5 percent among men and 11 percent among women. Although overall age-standardized COPD mortality rates remained fairly stable during this period, they decreased among men and increased among women.

The mortality rate was highest among whites, hovering around 68 per 100,000 population annually, than among blacks (about 42 per 100,000) and all other races (about 25 per 100,000).

In 2005, the rates among men between 25 and 64 years old ranged from 6.2 per 100,000 in Massachusetts and New Jersey to 19.2 in Oklahoma. Among women, rates ranged from 3.8 in New Jersey to 16.5 in West Virginia.

For older individuals, rates per 100,000 among men ranged from 169 in Hawaii to 540 in Vermont, and among women from 95 in Hawaii to 395 in Nevada.

“Variations in COPD mortality by state might reflect differences in smoking histories and/or differences in other exposures,” authors of an accompanying editorial write. They note that occupational exposure to dust, fumes, and gases cause about 15 percent of COPD cases.

Concluding, they state, “Further efforts to improve public recognition of COPD as a public health problem and to increase awareness of COPD symptoms are needed.”

SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, November 14, 2008.

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