Mother’s smoking may increase children’s COPD risk in later life
Exposure to mother’s smoking in childhood can increase the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in later life as an adult, a recent study suggested.
Children exposed to heavy maternal smoking (>20 cigarettes per day) had a 1.8 fold higher odds of airflow limitation at age 7 (p=0.014), and a 2.7 fold greater odds of having postbronchodilator airflow obstruction at middle age (p=0.009), compared with those not exposed to mother’s heavy smoking. [Respirology 2016;doi:10.111/resp.12750]
The risk was further increased when children of heavy-smoking mothers took up smoking in adulthood, which is itself a risk factor for COPD (p=0.048). These associations held true independently of gender and asthma severity.
“Our study suggests that the early life exposure to maternal smoking may increase an individual’s susceptibility to the harms of personal smoking in later life,” said the researchers.
By abstaining from smoking, adults who were exposed to mother’s smoking during their childhood not only protected themselves from the risk of COPD that came with smoking itself, but also the additional risk associated with exposure to mother’s smoking, said Dr. Jennifer Perret, a scientist at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health in the University of Melbourne, Australia, and co-authors.
The population-based study analysed data from the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study Cohort, which followed 1,389 individuals born in 1961 for 5 decades. Participants were followed-up with questionnaires and laboratory testing of lung function.
Measuring maternal smoking status at a single time-point when participants were aged 7 was a limitation, the researchers said, which precluded them from understanding if the adverse effect of mother’s smoking on lung function in 7-year-old children occurred during pregnancy or early childhood or both.
“This finding adds another important public health message to the widespread nonsmoking message that already targets the whole population in Western countries,” said the authors.