Blacks May Get Sicker Faster From Smoking

Physicians studying racial differences in smoking patterns and lung function in patients with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have found that African American patients with COPD started smoking later in life, smoked fewer cigarettes and yet presented with similar disease severity at an earlier age compared to white patients.From the Temple University Hospital:Blacks May Get Sicker Faster From Smoking

Physicians studying racial differences in smoking patterns and lung function in patients with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have found that African American patients with COPD started smoking later in life, smoked fewer cigarettes and yet presented with similar disease severity at an earlier age compared to white patients.

The study, performed by physicians at Temple University Hospital and Temple University School of Medicine, appears in the January 2004 issue of Chest.

“We’ve long known that there is a higher rate of disease and mortality of COPD in whites compared to African Americans,” says Dr. Wissam Chatila, a pulmonologist at Temple University Hospital and assistant professor of medicine at the Temple University School of Medicine. “To our knowledge, however, this is the first study to look at racial differences in cigarette smoking exposure while characterizing the severity of the pulmonary disease in a group of susceptible smokers.”

Although Chatila cautions that more research is needed to confirm the results, “this study raises the possibility that some African Americans are highly susceptible to cigarette smoking and acquire severe obstructive lung disease despite less exposure to smoking than susceptible whites.

“The challenge will be to discern reasons for these observed differences, which may be biological, physiologic, or environmental,” he says.

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