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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Women who smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop heart disease than men, says new research released on Wednesday.
After reviewing data on 2.4 million people and 44,000 cardiac events, the article's authors found female smokers have a 25 percent greater risk for coronary heart disease than males who smoke cigarettes.
The researchers, published in The Lancet medical journal, also found the difference in risk for male and female smokers increased by two percent for every year they smoke.
"It hasn't been widely recognized that there had been this sex difference," said Rachel Huxley of the University of Minnesota, the article's lead author, in an interview.
The findings could be attributed to physical differences between men and women, or differences in smoking habits, according to the study.
"For example, there are some data that indicate women will absorb more of the harmful agents in a cigarette compared to men," said Huxley. "Women may inhale more smoke or they may smoke more intensively."
Huxley said her next step is to complete a similar study to examine if the same finding can be applied to other complications related to smoking, such as strokes.
A fifth of the world's 1.1 billion smokers are women and an analysis released in March said millions of women in developing countries risked disease and death as their rising economic and political status leads them to smoke more.
SOURCE: bit.ly/qhR9JD The Lancet, online August 11, 2011.