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      Early life insults as determinants of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in adult life

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          Early life events may predispose to the development of chronic lung disease in adulthood.


          To provide an update on current knowledge of early nongenetic origins of COPD.

          Materials and methods

          Systematic literature review was performed according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines.


          A total of 16 studies, comprising 69,365 individuals, met the predefined criteria and were included in the present review. Studies have shown that in utero tobacco exposure, low birth weight, preterm birth, and respiratory diseases, primarily asthma and pneumonia, in early childhood are associated with lung function impairment later in childhood, and by that predispose to subsequent development of COPD, although the causal association between childhood respiratory diseases and COPD has been questioned in one study. Environmental tobacco exposure has also been shown to have negative impact on lung function in childhood possibly leading to COPD in adulthood, although it is at present not possible to clearly distinguish between the impact of active and the environmental tobacco exposure on subsequent development of COPD.


          Tobacco exposure in utero and early life is a risk factor for subsequent development of COPD. Furthermore, low birth weight, lower respiratory tract infections and asthma, including wheezy bronchitis, in childhood also seem to be important determinants for later development of COPD. Early life insults may, therefore, be crucial to COPD development.

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          Most cited references 29

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          Maternal smoking during pregnancy, environmental tobacco smoke exposure and childhood lung function.

          Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) during childhood and in utero exposure to maternal smoking are associated with adverse effects on lung growth and development. A study was undertaken of the associations between maternal smoking during pregnancy, exposure to ETS, and pulmonary function in 3357 school children residing in 12 Southern California communities. Current and past exposure to household ETS and exposure to maternal smoking in utero were assessed by a self-administered questionnaire completed by parents of 4th, 7th, and 10th grade students in 1993. Standard linear regression techniques were used to estimate the effects of in utero and ETS exposure on lung function, adjusting for age, sex, race, Hispanic ethnicity, height, weight, asthma, personal smoking, and selected household characteristics. In utero exposure to maternal smoking was associated with reduced peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) (-3.0%, 95% CI -4.4 to -1.4), mean mid expiratory flow (MMEF) (-4.6%, 95% CI -7.0 to -2.3), and forced expiratory flow (FEF(75)) (-6.2%, 95% CI -9.1 to -3.1), but not forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV(1)). Adjusting for household ETS exposure did not substantially change these estimates. The reductions in flows associated with in utero exposure did not significantly vary with sex, race, grade, income, parental education, or personal smoking. Exposure to two or more current household smokers was associated with reduced MMEF (-4.1%, 95% CI -7.6 to -0. 4) and FEF(75) (-4.4%, 95% CI -9.0 to 0.4). Current or past maternal smoking was associated with reductions in PEFR and MMEF; however, after adjustment for in utero exposure, deficits in MMEF and FEF(75) associated with all measurements of ETS were substantially reduced and were not statistically significant. In utero exposure to maternal smoking is independently associated with decreased lung function in children of school age, especially for small airway flows.
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            Occupational chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic literature review.

            Occupational-attributable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) presents a substantial health challenge. Focusing on spirometric criteria for airflow obstruction, this review of occupational COPD includes both population-wide and industry-specific exposures.
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              Parental smoking in childhood and adult obstructive lung disease: results from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey.

              Early exposure to parental smoking appears to influence the development of the airways and predispose to respiratory symptoms. A study was undertaken to determine whether the consequences of parental smoking could be traced in adulthood. Information from interviewer-led questionnaires was available for 18 922 subjects aged 20-44 years from random population samples in 37 areas participating in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. Lung function data were available for 15,901 subjects. In men, father's smoking in childhood was associated with more respiratory symptoms (ORwheeze 1.13 (95% CI 1.00 to 1.28); never smokers: ORwheeze 1.21 (95% CI 0.96 to 1.50)) and there was a dose-dependent association between number of parents smoking and wheeze (one: OR 1.08 (95% CI 0.94 to 1.24); both: OR 1.24 (95% CI 1.05 to 1.47); ptrend = 0.010). A reduced ratio of forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) to forced vital capacity (FVC) was related to father's smoking (-0.3% (95% CI -0.6 to 0)) and number of parents smoking (ptrend <0.001) among men. In women, mother's smoking was associated with more respiratory symptoms and poorer lung function (ORwheeze 1.15 (95% CI 1.01 to 1.31), never smokers: ORwheeze 1.21 (95% CI 0.98-1.51); FEV1 -24 ml (95% CI -45 to -3); FEV1/FVC ratio -0.6% (95% CI -0.9 to -0.3)). These effects were possibly accounted for by maternal smoking in pregnancy (ORwheeze 1.39 (95% CI 1.17 to 1.65); FEV1 -23 ml (95% CI -52 to 7); FEV1/FVC ratio -0.9% (95% CI -1.3 to -0.4)) as there was no association with paternal smoking among women (interaction by sex, p<0.05). These results were homogeneous across centres. Both intrauterine and environmental exposure to parental tobacco smoking was related to more respiratory symptoms and poorer lung function in adulthood in this multicultural study. The age window of particular vulnerability appeared to differ by sex, postnatal exposure being important only in men and a role for prenatal exposure being more evident in women.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                26 February 2018
                : 13
                : 683-693
                [1 ]Department of Respiratory Medicine, Hvidovre Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark
                [2 ]Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Charlotte Suppli Ulrik, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Hvidovre Hospital, Kettegård Alle 30, DK-2650 Hvidovre, Denmark, Email csulrik@
                © 2018 Savran and Ulrik. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.



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