Isa Cerveri, M.D., of the Division of Respiratory Diseases at San Matteo Hospital and University of Pavia in Italy, and 19 associates showed that the presence of chronic cough and phlegm among study participants was an independent and statistically significant predictor of COPD. Of the 5,002 individuals in the study cohort, 123 were diagnosed with COPD. All participants had normal lung function at baseline.
"In a large international cohort of individuals from ages 20 to 44, the 10-year cumulative incidence of COPD was 2.8 percent," said Dr. Cerveri. "It was 4.6 percent in adults aged 40 to 44. This finding points out that COPD is a major health problem even in young adults who are usually not considered to be at risk. In agreement with previous research, we found that the progression toward airflow obstruction is a continuous and gradual process, where sudden changes are extremely unlikely."
Among the study group, about 77 percent of the 123 COPD cases were smokers. In the sample as a whole, about 55 percent smoked. The authors noted their results confirm that, from a public health perspective, the prevention of smoking and smoking cessation are the most effective strategies to deter the occurrence of COPD and reduce its burden. "Our results show that the presence of chronic cough and phlegm is not an innocent symptom, but is an early marker of airflow obstruction," said Dr. Cerveri.
In addition to cough and phlegm in participants, researchers considered such factors as sex, age, breathlessness, smoking habits and level of education. All participants received lung function tests and blood workups at the beginning and end of the study.
MEDICA.de; Source: American Thoracic Society