Smoking and Lung Cancer Risk in Women: Unveiling the Gender Gap

By Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit in Cancer Care / Oncology

Feb 09 , 2024 | 3 min read

Attention all women: Did you know smoking significantly increases your risk of developing lung cancer? It's time to unveil the truth behind the gender gap regarding this deadly disease. Get ready to discover how smoking affects your health and what steps you can take toward a smoke-free future. 

What Is the Gender Gap in Lung Cancer Risk?

The chances of developing lung cancer are much higher in women than in men; in fact, women are twice as likely as men to develop lung cancer.

Several factors contribute to the gender gap in lung cancer risk. First, women smokers are more likely than men smokers to develop lung cancer. This is due, in part, to the fact that women smokers tend to smoke fewer cigarettes than men smokers. As a result, they are exposed to less nicotine and other chemicals found in smoke from tobacco.

Second, women have a higher risk of developing lung cancer even if they smoke the same amount as men. This is because women's bodies metabolize nicotine and other toxins from tobacco smoke differently than men's. Women also have a higher concentration of certain enzymes that break down tobacco-related carcinogens.

Third, hormones may play a role in developing lung cancer in women. Estrogen, for example, has been shown to promote the growth of lung tumours. Lifestyle choices like diet and exercise also influence a woman's risk of developing lung cancer.

How Does Smoking Affect Women's Lung Cancer Risk?

Smoking is often the root cause of lung cancer in women, especially those at high risk. In fact, women who smoke are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smoking women.

There are several reasons why smoking is such a risk factor for lung cancer in women. These include:

  • Smoking damages the DNA in cells, which can lead to cancer.
  • Smoking irritates and inflames the lungs, which makes them more susceptible to infection and cancer.
  • Smoking increases the production of harmful chemicals in the body that damage cells and lead to cancer.
  • Smoking lowers the levels of important antioxidants in the body that protect cells from damage.

Other factors that increase the risk of developing lung cancer include:

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Exposure to radon gas.
  • A family history of lung cancer.
  • Certain genetic mutations.

Also, Read - 5 Reasons Why Smoking is Bad For Your Lungs

The Impact of Smoking on Men's and Women's Lung Cancer Risks

Though the incidence of lung cancer is higher in men than women, smoking-related lung cancer mortality is much higher in women. In fact, smoking kills more women each year than all other causes of death combined, including breast cancer.

So why does smoking have such a disproportionate impact on women's health? Part of the answer may lie in hormones. Women have higher levels of circulating estrogen compared to men, and the hormone has shown an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Additionally, smokers metabolize nicotine differently than nonsmokers, and this difference may be more pronounced in women.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that smoking takes a greater toll on women's health than on men's. Women who smoke are at increased risk for a number of smoking-related diseases, including lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. Quitting smoking is the best method of reducing your risk of these diseases, and many resources are available to help you quit.

Also, Read - Smoking and Lung Cancer: Unraveling the Connection and Quitting Resources

What Can Be Done to Reduce Lung Cancer Risk in Women?

A number of things  can be done to reduce lung cancer risk in women:

  • Avoid smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. This is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of lung cancer.
  • Get regular screenings for lung cancer. Screenings help catch the disease early when it is most treatable.
  • Eat a nutritious diet and maintain a healthy weight. A healthy lifestyle helps reduce the risks of many diseases, including lung cancer.
  • Limit your exposure to known carcinogens. If you work with or are exposed to substances that are known to cause cancer, take steps to protect yourself from exposure.

Also, Read - Mastering Your Health: Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Lung Cancer Risk

Unveiling the gender gap in smoking-related lung cancer has revealed an even more staggering statistic: women are twice as likely to develop lung cancer from smoking than men. This difference is due to a number of factors, including differences in cell biology and metabolism between women and men. Women also face greater health risks from secondhand smoke

exposure than men, increasing their risk of developing lung cancer. Knowing these facts can help both sexes make better decisions about how they smoke and what measures they take to protect themselves against lung cancer.