“#smoke” by Seniju is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Effects of Childhood Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Can Drift Into Adulthood

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“#smoke” by Seniju is licensed under CC BY 2.0Ryan Diver MSPH
Director, Data Analysis
American Cancer Society, Inc.
250 Williams St.
Atlanta, GA 30303

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Secondhand smoke is known to have adverse effects on the lung and vascular systems in both children and adults. But it is unknown whether childhood exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with mortality in adulthood.

To explore the issue, we examined associations of childhood and adult secondhand smoke exposure with death from all causes, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among 70,900 never-smoking men and women from the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. Study participants, primarily ages 50 to 74 at the beginning of the study, answered questions about their secondhand smoke exposure during childhood and as adults and were followed for 22 years.

Those who reported having lived with a daily smoker throughout their childhood had 31% higher mortality from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compared to those who did not live with a smoker. Although the study counted only deaths, the increase in fatal COPD implies that living with a smoker during childhood could also increase risk of non-fatal COPD. In addition, secondhand smoke exposure (10 or more hours/week) as an adult was associated with a 9% higher risk of all-cause mortality, a 27% higher risk of death from ischemic heart disease, a 23% higher risk of death from stroke, and a 42% higher risk of death from COPD.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This is the first study to identify an association between childhood exposure to secondhand smoke and death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in middle age and beyond. The results also suggest that adult secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease death. Overall, our findings provide further evidence for reducing secondhand smoke exposure throughout life.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: It will be important to do similar research in people that have higher levels of exposure to secondhand smoke as children. Most participants in this study were born in the 1920’s-1930’s and lived with 1 smoker (probably their father). In the U.S., more women were smoking in the 1950’s-1960’s and children born at that time likely had greater exposure to secondhand smoke from both parents. It is possible the association with COPD would be stronger and associations with additional diseases would become apparent in a study with higher secondhand smoke exposure. This is particularly relevant for countries where smoking rates and secondhand smoke exposure is much higher than the U.S.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The results of this research support implementation of smoke-free air laws, smoke-free home and vehicle policies, and clinical interventions to reduce secondhand smoke exposure.

Disclosures: The American Cancer Society funds the creation, maintenance, and updating of the Cancer Prevention Study-II cohort. We have no other financial disclosures.

W. Ryan Diver, Eric J. Jacobs, Susan M. Gapstur. Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Childhood and Adulthood in Relation to Adult Mortality Among Never Smokers. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2018; 55 (3): 345 DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.05.005

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Last Updated on August 18, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD