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Chronic Cough, Phlegm Sign of COPD Risk in Young Adults

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease incidence substantial even in young adults

TUESDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults with chronic cough and phlegm are at twofold to threefold higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than patients without such symptoms, according to a report in the Jan. 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Roberto de Marco, Ph.D., from the Universita degli Studi di Verona in Italy, and colleagues assessed whether chronic cough/phlegm and dyspnea were independent predictors of COPD in 5,002 young adults (20 to 44 years old) without asthma and with normal lung function. COPD was defined as having an FEV1/FVC ratio (forced expiratory volume in one second/forced vital capacity) of less than 70 percent at the end of the follow-up in the absence of physician-diagnosed asthma.

The investigators found that the incidence of COPD was 2.8 cases/1,000/year. After adjusting for confounders, such as smoking, they found that chronic cough/phlegm was a significant independent predictor of COPD (incidence rate ratio, 1.85), while dyspnea was not (IRR, 0.98). Subjects who had chronic cough/phlegm at both baseline and follow-up also had a considerably higher risk of developing COPD (IRR, 2.88).

"The incidence of COPD is substantial even in young adults," the authors conclude. "The presence of chronic cough/phlegm identifies a subgroup of subjects with a high risk of developing COPD, independently of smoking habits."

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