Children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) have more than double the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) later in life, according to a recent study published in the journal Respirology.
Researchers, led by Ane Johannessen, PhD, of Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, came to this conclusion after examining data from the Bergen COPD Cohort Study, which was conducted from 2006 to 2009. Their analysis included 433 patients with COPD and 325 without, ages 40 to 79. All patients underwent spirometry and completed questionnaires about respiratory symptoms and risk factors associated with COPD.
Overall, 61% of patients and controls reported being exposed to ETS for at least one year of their childhood. In addition, those patients with COPD had a smoking history of more than 10-pack years.
After thorough analysis, researchers found that women who were exposed to ETS as children were nearly twice as likely to develop COPD later in life compared to those who were not exposed. This relationship did not reach statistical significance among men. However, early-life exposure to tobacco smoke in men was associated with greater odds of developing certain COPD-related symptoms, such as morning cough, cough with phlegm and chronic cough.
Other predictors of COPD among women included occupational dust or gas exposure, family history, and lower educational achievement. Family history was also associated with all respiratory symptoms, while current exposure to tobacco smoke in the home was associated with morning cough, and lower educational achievement was associated with dyspnea.
“Although active smoking is still the most important risk factor for COPD, reduction of childhood ETS exposure could contribute to the prevention of COPD and respiratory symptoms,” wrote the researchers.