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Secondhand Smoke in Childhood Linked to Lung Disease Years Later

MONDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- Children exposed to secondhand smoke have nearly twice the risk of developing a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease when they're adults, a new study has found.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term used for a number of conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

In the study, Norwegian researchers looked at 433 adult COPD patients and 325 adults without the disease to assess risk factors for the condition, which causes breathing difficulties and grows worse over time.

Women exposed to secondhand smoke as children had a 1.9 times greater risk of developing the lung disease than those who weren't exposed, while men exposed to secondhand smoke as children had a 1.5 times to 1.7 times greater risk than those who were not exposed, the investigators found.

Overall, childhood exposure to secondhand smoke was a much stronger risk factor for developing COPD than exposure to secondhand smoke during adulthood, according to the report published online recently in the journal Respirology.

"Our results suggest that the long-term burden of COPD could be reduced if children were not exposed to cigarette smoke," study author Ane Johannessen and colleagues at Haukeland University Hospital, in Bergen, Norway, noted in a journal news release. "Further, they indicate that factors affecting early-life development of lung function has important long-term consequences for adult life."

While the study uncovered an association between secondhand smoke exposure in childhood and COPD in adults, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Respirology, news release, March 15, 2012

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