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Quitting smoking improves lung function considerably

For smokers with asthma, quitting smoking can improve lung function test scores by more than 15 percent in less than two months.

The findings appear in the second issue for July 2006 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

Neil C. Thomson, M.D., of the Departments of Respiratory Medicine and Immunology at the University of Glasgow, and seven associates studied 11 asthmatics who continued to smoke and 10 who quit for six weeks. After only one week of no cigarettes, the researchers said that the lung function test results of the non-smoking patients had improved to a "considerable degree."

"The improvement in lung function seen after smoking cessation was clinically significant," said Dr. Thomson. "It demonstrates that there is a reversible component to the harmful effects of smoking on the airways in asthma."

"The degree of improvement noted for smoking cessation far exceeds that of high-dose anti-inflammatory treatment, such as oral prednisolone, 40 mg daily for 2 weeks, which had no effect on lung function in smokers in our current study and in our previous work," he continued. "The improvement could be due to the removal of the acute bronchoconstrictor effects of cigarette smoke or a reduction in the proinflammatory effects of cigarette smoke on the airways."

In addition to the improved lung function test scores, the "quit" group also showed a reduction in sputum neutrophil counts when compared to those of smokers. Neutrophils are white blood cells (phagocytes) that engulf bacterial and fungal infections, along with ingesting foreign debris.

"Sputum neutrophil counts are reported to be increased in heavy smokers with asthma compared with nonsmokers with asthma," said Dr. Thomson.

The authors noted that in many developed countries, more than 20 percent of adults with asthma are active smokers, with particularly high rates of acute a
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Source:American Thoracic Society


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