Passive, or second-hand, exposure to cigarette smoke during childhood was associated with an increased risk of developing COPD as an adult when compared to children who were not exposed to cigarette smoke.
Reducing cigarette smoke exposure during childhood would not eliminate COPD but could help to reduce the overall risk of developing the disease as an adult.
"Ask your doctor about tests for COPD."
The COPD study was led by Dr. Ane Johannessen from the Centre for Clinical Research at Haukeland University Hospital in Norway. The study involved 433 COPD patients and 325 control patients who had been a part of another COPD study in Norway.
Lung function tests were performed, all participants filled out a questionnaire and the results were separated by gender. In addition to childhood cigarette smoke exposure associated with an increased risk of COPD, females were at a greater risk than their male counterparts.
Individuals that were exposed to cigarette smoke during childhood were associated with a greater risk, nearly double, for developing COPD as an adult in comparison to individuals who were not exposed to cigarette smoke.
Nearly 61 percent of the study's participants were exposed to cigarette smoke during childhood. Women exposed to cigarette smoke during childhood were at a greater risk of developing COPD than men.
The risk of women developing COPD after being exposed to cigarette smoke during childhood was increased 1.9-fold. Other associated COPD risk factors for women included exposure to work-related dust, family history of COPD, current cigarette smoke exposure and COPD education.
Men who were exposed to cigarette during childhood had their risk increased by 1.5 to 1.7-fold. COPD education, work-related dust exposure, and family history were other risk factors associated with men.
The study did not address how many individuals who were exposed to cigarette smoke as children became smokers as adults. In turn, the number of COPD patients who were smokers was not addressed either. The likelihood of children exposed to cigarette smoke becoming active smokers was not addressed.
While cigarette smoke exposure may be an associated risk factor for COPD, the biggest risk factor for COPD is actively smoking cigarettes, according to the study. Reducing environment exposure may reduce some risks any benefit would obviously be negated if an individual was smoking cigarettes.
No funding information was reported.
This study was published in the March edition of Respirology.