"We found that exposure to cigarette smoke appears to increase the thickness of the epithelium, or lining, of the airways in the lung. This may be the underlying cause of the fact that smoking asthma patients experience more asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath and phlegm production, compared to non-smoking asthma patients," said Martine Broekema, lead author of the study.
Broekema and colleagues examined patients with asthma who were assessed each for the severity of their asthma and allergy, given questionnaires to determine the extent of their smoke-induced symptoms, and then underwent bronchial biopsies. Of the total of 147 patients, 66 never smoked, 46 were ex-smokers and 35 were current smokers. "Our data suggest that smoking cessation can reverse the thickening of the lining of the airways," said Broekema.
To determine the role of exposure length on asthmatic lungs, the scientists divided the ex-smokers into two groups: those with fewer than the median 3.4 pack-year exposure and those with more than 3.4 pack-years.
Interestingly, while they expected to find evidence of a dose-response effect between smoking and epithelial remodeling, no such association was apparent between the number of pack-years or duration of smoking cessation and epithelial remodeling.
"To our surprise, these two sub-groups of ex-smokers showed no difference in any outcome measure. These sub-analyses indicate that the amount of smoke exposure in the past does not influence our outcome measures," said Broekema. "This study shows again how important smoking cessation is for pulmonary health, and this appears to be especially true for asthmatic patients."
MEDICA.de; Source: American Thoracic Society