FRIDAY, May 4, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- People with the often deadly lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, have an increased risk of death if they also have certain types of other health problems, according to new research.
COPD is a progressive disease involving bronchitis and emphysema, often tied to smoking, that makes it hard for patients to breathe.
The new study included more than 1,600 COPD patients in the United States and Spain who were followed-up for an average of 51 months. The findings were released online May 4 ahead of print publication in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The researchers looked at 79 other health problems in the COPD patients and found that "12 were significantly and independently associated with an increased risk of death," lead study author Dr. Miguel Divo, a physician in the pulmonary and critical division at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in a news release from the American Thoracic Society.
These 12 conditions were: lung cancer; pancreatic cancer; esophageal cancer; breast cancer; pulmonary fibrosis; atrial fibrillation/flutter; congestive heart failure; coronary artery disease; gastric/duodenal ulcers; liver cirrhosis; diabetes with neuropathy; and anxiety.
Overall, the average number of other health conditions per patient was six. The average number of other health problems was 6.5 among patients who died and 5.8 among those who survived, the investigators found.
Screening people with COPD for these other conditions and treating them may help improve their survival, noted Divo, who is also an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.
While the study uncovered an association between higher death rates and coexisting health problems in COPD patients, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.