Early-life events linked to lung health in young adulthood

November 12, 2020

Early-life events, such as the exposure to air pollutants, increases the risk of chronic lung disease in young adulthood, according to new results by researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, published in the European Respiratory Journal and Thorax. The studies add to the growing evidence that chronic lung disease in adulthood can be traced back to childhood.

Chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), with the hallmark features phlegm and irreversible airflow limitation, respectively, are lung diseases known to affect adults with a history of long-term smoking.

"To our surprise, we found the prevalence of chronic bronchitis and irreversible airflow limitation to be rather high (5.5% and 2.0%, respectively), considering the young age of the study participants." says senior author Erik Melen, professor and paediatrician , Department of Clinical Science and Education, Karolinska Institutet, Sodersjukhuset.

"Those diseases are usually diagnosed in patients older than 50 years of age", comments further co-author Anders Linden, professor and pulmonologist, Institute of Environmental Medicine.

In the present studies, the researchers used data from birth up to age 24 years from the follow-up of the Swedish population-based birth cohort BAMSE (Swedish abbreviation for Child (Barn), Allergy, Milieu, Stockholm, Epidemiological), which includes 4,089 participants from the Stockholm area recruited 1994-96.

Analyses performed by PhD student Gang Wang showed that smoking as well as early-life air pollution exposures and childhood asthma are risk factors for chronic bronchitis, whereas breast-feeding was identified as a protective factor.

In addition, the early-life risk factors for development of irreversible airflow limitation were recurrent lung infections, asthma, and exposure to air pollution.

"The levels of air pollutants in the current study mainly reflect local emissions from road traffic, which implies that this preventable risk factor may play an important role in the development of chronic lung disease in young adults." says professor Erik Melen.

Given that air pollution levels in Stockholm are comparatively low by international standards, this makes the current findings very important in a global context. And despite the young participants' age, active smoking was linked to chronic bronchitis, which underlines the negative health effects from even a limited period of exposure to tobacco smoke.

"In conclusion, our two novel studies demonstrate that chronic bronchitis and irreversible airflow limitation do exist in young adults and emphasize the importance of early-life events for maintaining lung health during adulthood. The take home-message is: If you want to prevent disease, early prevention is the key to success."
The study was financially supported by the European Research Council (TRIBAL, 757919), the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation, Region Stockholm and the China Scholarship Council.

Publications: "Assessment of chronic bronchitis and risk factors in young adults: results from BAMSE", Gang Wang, Jenny Hallberg, Petra Um Bergstrom, Christer Janson, Goran Pershagen, Olena Gruzieva, Marianne van Hage, Antonios Georgelis, Anna Bergstrom, Inger Kull, Anders Linden, and Erik Melen. European Respiratory Journal, online 12 November 2020, doi: 10.1183/13993003.02120-2020.

"Early-life risk factors for reversible and irreversible airflow limitation in young adults: Findings from the BAMSE birth cohort", Gang Wang, Inger Kull, Anna Bergstrom, Jenny Hallberg, Petra Um Bergstrom, Stefano Guerra, Goran Pershagen, Olena Gruzieva, Marianne van Hage, Antonios Georgelis, Christer Janson, Anders Linden, and Erik Melen. Thorax, online November 12 2020, doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-215884.

Karolinska Institutet

Related Air Pollution Articles from Brightsurf:

How air pollution affects homeless populations
When air quality worsens, either from the smoke and ozone of summer or the inversion of winter, most of us stay indoors.

Exploring the neurological impact of air pollution
Air pollution has become a fact of modern life, with a majority of the global population facing chronic exposure.

Spotting air pollution with satellites, better than ever before
Researchers from Duke University have devised a method for estimating the air quality over a small patch of land using nothing but satellite imagery and weather conditions.

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy is associated with growth delays
A new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has found an association between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and delays in physical growth in the early years after birth.

Nearly half of US breathing unhealthy air; record-breaking air pollution in nine cities
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of air pollution on lung health is of heightened concern.

Air pollution linked to dementia and cardiovascular disease
People continuously exposed to air pollution are at increased risk of dementia, especially if they also suffer from cardiovascular diseases, according to a study at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

New framework will help decide which trees are best in the fight against air pollution
A study from the University of Surrey has provided a comprehensive guide on which tree species are best for combating air pollution that originates from our roads -- along with suggestions for how to plant these green barriers to get the best results.

Air pollution is one of the world's most dangerous health risks
Researchers calculate that the effects of air pollution shorten the lives of people around the world by an average of almost three years.

The world faces an air pollution 'pandemic'
Air pollution is responsible for shortening people's lives worldwide on a scale far greater than wars and other forms of violence, parasitic and insect-born diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and smoking, according to a study published in Cardiovascular Research.

Air pollution in childhood linked to schizophrenia
Children who grow up in areas with heavy air pollution have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.

Read More: Air Pollution News and Air Pollution Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.