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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sex and gender in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Camp, Patricia


Research on sex and gender in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has primarily focused on differences in pulmonary function. Detailed gender- and sex-based analyses of other aspects of COPD, including epidemiology, risk factors other than cigarette smoke, pathophysiology, and measurement tools are warranted. In Chapter Two we analyzed administrative health services data to compare the prevalence, mortality and use of drugs and spirometry in men and women with COPD. Contrary to recent predictions, we did not detect a dramatic increase in the prevalence or mortality of COPD over time in women compared to men. We discuss how different coding practices in medical billing can impact the results. In Chapter Three we examined sex differences in COPD phenotypes. We hypothesized that male smokers would have more emphysema whereas female smokers would have more airway wall remodeling using data from high resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scans. We did detect more emphysema in male smokers but there was no evidence of increased airway remodeling in women. We discuss the limits of HRCT to detect airway differences in women and men. In Chapter Four we examined the use of HRCT in assessing emphysema. We hypothesized that the computer-derived estimates of emphysema (the fractal value and the % low attenuation area (%LAA)) would differentiate COPD from non-COPD as accurately as the radiologist’s emphysema scores, and would provide similar predictions in both men and women. Instead, we found that the subjective rating of emphysema best differentiated COPD, and the fractal value (a measure of emphysematous lesion size) better differentiated COPD compared with an established objective measurement, the %LAA. These results were generally the same in men and women. In Chapter Five we examined characteristics of COPD in women exposed to biomass smoke. We hypothesized that biomass smoke would induce an airway disease-predominant phenotype. We found that women with biomass smoke-exposed COPD had greater airway remodeling and less emphysema than women with tobacco smoke-exposed COPD. In summary, these findings suggest that sex and gender differences are present in COPD epidemiology and pathophysiology. However, current research measurement tools may limit the ability to accurately measure these differences.

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