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Secondhand Smoke Linked to Dementia
Date:2/12/2009

Exposure may increase risk by 44%, researchers say

THURSDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- People exposed to secondhand smoke may face as much as a 44 percent increased risk of developing dementia, a new study suggests.

While previous research has established a connection between smoking and increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease, this new study is the largest review to date showing a link between secondhand smoke and the threat of dementia, the authors said.

"There is an association between cognitive function, which is often but not necessarily a precursor of dementia, and exposure to passive smoking," said lead researcher Iain Lang, a research fellow in the Public Health and Epidemiology Group at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England.

What's more, Lang said, the risk of impaired cognitive function increases with the amount of exposure to secondhand smoke, the findings suggest. "For people at the highest levels of exposure, the risk is probably higher," he said.

The study was published online Feb. 13 in the journal BMJ.com.

For the study, Lang's team collected data on more than 4,800 nonsmokers who were over 50 years old. The researchers tested saliva samples from these people for levels of cotinine, a product of nicotine that can be found in saliva for about 25 hours after exposure to smoke.

The study participants also took neuropsychological tests to assess brain function and cognitive impairment. These tests evaluated memory, math and verbal skills. People whose scores were in the lowest 10 percent were classified as having some level of cognitive impairment.

The researchers found that people with the highest cotinine levels had a 44 percent increased risk of cognitive impairment, compared with people with the lowest cotinine levels. And, while the risk of impairment was lower in people with lower cotinine levels, the risk was still significant.<
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