There is growing evidence that a number of pulmonary diseases affect women differently and with a greater degree of severity than men. The causes for such sex disparity is the focus of this Blue Conference Perspective review, which explores basic cellular and molecular mechanisms, life stages, and clinical outcomes based on environmental, sociocultural, occupational, and infectious scenarios, as well as medical health beliefs. Owing to the breadth of issues related to women and lung disease, we present examples of both basic and clinical concepts that may be the cause for pulmonary disease disparity in women. These examples include those diseases that predominantly affect women, as well as the rising incidence among women for diseases traditionally occurring in men, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Sociocultural implications of pulmonary disease attributable to biomass burning and infectious diseases among women in low- to middle-income countries are reviewed, as are disparities in respiratory health among sexual minority women in high-income countries. The implications of the use of complementary and alternative medicine by women to influence respiratory disease are examined, and future directions for research on women and respiratory health are provided.
Keywords: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; complementary and alternative medicine; health disparity; sexual minority women.