Non-Hispanic White Women Smokers At Higher Risk

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The nation's first scientific study on the relationship between smoking and respiratory disease among Hispanic versus non-Hispanic white (NHW) women revealed that NHW women smokers were at greater risk of developing airflow obstruction and diminished lung function than Hispanic women who smoke - a surprising finding given that many diseases more adversely affect ethnic minorities. Smoking-related respiratory diseases are a major cause of death among all women.

The objective was to evaluate the risk of airflow obstruction and to assess lung function among Hispanic and NHW female smokers in a New Mexican group of participants.

Lead investigators at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI) - in collaboration with the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and the University of Southern California, Los Angeles - conducted the study, which was financed by the Tobacco Settlement Commission of New Mexico. Of the 1,433 women who participated, 248 (17.3 percent) were Hispanic, 830 (57.9 percent) were current smokers, 517 (36.1 percent) smoked 40 pack-years and 422 (29.4 percent) were obese.

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Dr. Yohannes Tesfaigzi of LRRI, based in Albuquerque, said, "The findings of this study were very surprising; however no Hispanic woman who smokes should believe they are immune to the many diseases that smoking causes."

While Hispanic participants were significantly more likely to be younger, overweight or obese, and had a higher prevalence of current smoking, they had a lower intensity of smoking (fewer pack-years) than NHW women. There was no significant difference in duration or age of onset of smoking, or time since smoking cessation for ex-smokers between the two groups.

Researchers discovered that Hispanic ethnicity was associated with halving of the likelihood of airflow obstruction in those female smokers, who also had better lung function compared to NHW women smokers (after adjusting for age, BMI, pack-years and duration of smoking, and current smoking status).

The findings are generally consistent with previous studies in New Mexico that showed a lower prevalence of and mortality from self-reported chronic respiratory diseases among Hispanics.

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