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Sex differences in calcified plaque and long-term cardiovascular mortality: observations from the CAC Consortium.



Pathologic evidence supports unique sex-specific mechanisms as precursors for acute cardiovascular (CV) events. Current evidence on long-term CV risk among women when compared with men based on measures of coronary artery calcium (CAC) remains incomplete.

Methods and results

A total of 63 215 asymptomatic women and men were enrolled in the multicentre, CAC Consortium with median follow-up of 12.6 years. Pooled cohort equation (PCE) risk scores and risk factor data were collected with the Agatston score and other CAC measures (number of lesions and vessels, lesion size, volume, and plaque density). Cox proportional hazard models were employed to estimate CV mortality (n = 919). Sex interactions were calculated. Women and men had average PCE risk scores of 5.8% and 9.1% (P < 0.001). Within CAC subgroups, women had fewer calcified lesions (P < 0.0001) and vessels (P = 0.017), greater lesion size (P < 0.0001), and higher plaque density (P = 0.013) when compared with men. For women and men without CAC, long-term CV mortality was similar (P = 0.67), whereas detectable CAC was associated with 1.3-higher hazard for CV death among women when compared with men (P < 0001). Cardiovascular mortality was higher among women with more extensive, numerous, or larger CAC lesions. The relative hazard for cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality for women and men was 8.2 vs. 5.1 for multivessel CAC, 8.6 vs. 5.9 for ≥5 CAC lesions, and 8.5 vs. 4.4 for a lesion size ≥15 mm3, respectively. Additional explorations revealed that women with larger sized and more numerous CAC lesions had 2.2-fold higher CVD mortality (P < 0.0001) as compared to men. Moreover, CAC density was not predictive of CV mortality in women (P = 0.51) but was for men (P < 0.001), when controlling for CAC volume and cardiac risk factors.


Our overall findings support that measures beyond the Agatston score provide important clues to sex differences in atherosclerotic plaque and may further refine risk detection and focus preventive strategies of care.

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