Toronto, Ontario—While smoking is the biggest risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a new study finds susceptibility in women who have never smoked, especially if they are African American. The report published in the International Journal of Chronic Diseases points out that 7% of never-smoking older African-American women and 5.2% of white older women have a COPD diagnosis, compared to 2.9% of never-smoking older white men. The study obtained a representative sample of 129,535 Americans aged 50 and older who had never smoked from the 2012 Behavioral Risk Surveillance database. Researchers suggest that physiological differences, such as height as a proxy for lung size; hormonal differences; and second-hand smoke exposure from spouses all could be factors in risks for nonsmoking women. Overall, about one-quarter of Americans with COPD have never smoked.

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