ANOTHER REASON TO QUIT: HAWAI'I PART OF ANEURYSM STUDY
Date: November 20, 2008
WOMEN WHO SMOKE have a significantly higher risk of developing a lethal rupture of the body’s largest artery, an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Researchers using data from the U.S. Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) have found women smokers are eight times more likely to suffer an abdominal aortic aneurysm than nonsmokers. “It is important to note that smoking is a more powerful risk factor for aortic aneurysm than it is
for heart disease or stroke,” said Dr. David Curb, Director of Translational Research at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine and Principal Hawai‘i Investigator for the WHI. Several JABSOM researchers assisted in the WHI.
“This further emphasizes the need for women to avoid smoking.”
An aneurysm occurs when an area in the wall of the aorta—the body’s largest artery—is weakened and begins to expand. When an aneurysm ruptures, it can be deadly. 75 to 80 percent of people who suffer a ruptured aorta do not survive.Quitting smoking reduces the risk, but former women smokers are still four times more likely to suffer the condition.
The rupture can occur without symptoms, although the process can develop over as long as ten years. Sometimes CT or MRI scans detect the weakening of the artery, but usually that is because patients are seeking treatment for another ailment. A goal of future research is to develop a specific test for the condition.
The findings about smoking and aneurysm in women are published in October’s edition of the British Medical Journal. The lead researcher is Dr. Frank Lederle of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis and professor at the University of Minnesota.
The WHI is an ongoing study (through at least 2010). Launched in 1991, it involves more than 3,000 generally healthy postmenopausal women in Hawai‘i, and more than 160,000 women nationwide.