COPD More Prevalent in Adults Whose Parents Had the Disease

A recent literature review confirmed that adult offspring of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are at higher risk of being diagnosed with the disease themselves.

A recent literature review confirmed that adult offspring of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at higher risk of being diagnosed with the disease themselves. Their odds of having it were 1.57 times greater compared to people without COPD-afflicted parents.

The study, published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, analyzed 8 observational studies that reported either on the prevalence of COPD in offspring of people with COPD or the prevalence of parental COPD history in people with the disease. The authors hypothesized that COPD rates would be higher among those whose parents had the disease due to “exposure to intergenerational and life course factors.”

They noted that prior studies have shown first-degree relatives (not only children) of COPD sufferers are more likely to have the disease, but suspected this association might be even stronger in adult offspring as they were more likely to have lived with the parents during their formative early childhood years.

After statistical analysis, the researchers found that the pooled prevalence of parental COPD history in people with COPD was 28.6%. A meta-analysis of odds ratios (ORs) indicated that the children of people with COPD had 57% higher odds of developing the disease compared to people with no such parental history. Having a parent with COPD actually increased the odds of COPD more than exposure to passive smoking (OR = 1.48) or childhood pneumonia (OR = 1.4) did.

The association was stronger for participants with moderate-to-severe COPD, which indicates that increased risk is partially due to genetic factors. Lifestyle factors in childhood contribute to risk as well, but there is a lack of research on the strength of these effects compared to genetic effects. The authors suggested that another factor could be that children of people with COPD may be more vigilant and familiar with symptoms and therefore more likely to visit a clinician and get diagnosed.

Having established that the offspring of COPD sufferers are at higher risk, the authors suggested that this knowledge could be used to screen this population more thoroughly. If a clinician knows that a patient’s parent has COPD, that patient should be prioritized for testing or lifestyle interventions like smoking cessation programs.

“Targeted screening in this at-risk group (adult offspring of people with COPD) may lead to opportunities to capitalize on familial links and promote early identification and intervention,” the authors concluded.