A large portion of adult asthma can be prevented

Many people around the world are living with asthma. Up until now scientists thought adult asthma cannot be prevented. However, a new research from University of Tasmania revealed that a large proportion of adult asthma may be preventable, because it is related to environmental factors.

Late-onset asthma can be prevented by avoiding smoking. Image credit: NIAID via Wikimedia, CC BY 2.0

Late-onset asthma can be prevented by avoiding smoking. Image credit: NIAID via Wikimedia, CC BY 2.0

Of course, scientists knew that healthy lifestyle choices are a big part of potential solution. However, the real role of environmental factors in the late-onset adult asthma was not identified. In this new research scientists managed to take a look at two large groups of adult asthma – one that starts early in life and one that starts later in life. In the middle-aged group tested  these groups are pretty much equal in size. This second group is very interesting, because, as this study found, it may be closely related to environmental factors, such as current smoking. It means that a large portion of it can be prevented.

This study is world’s largest and longest-running population-based study of respiratory disease ever. Sure enough, smoking is not the only factor that matters in the development of this disease. Other factors related to female gender and socioeconomic status may also be involved. However, smoking is probably the easiest to deal with. It means that public health recommendations, suggesting that smokers suffering from asthma should quit smoking, have a strong basis and should be reinforced even harder.

Daniel Tan, author of the study, said: “With over 15% of this middle-aged cohort having asthma, our study reaffirms that Tasmania has one of the highest rates of adult asthma in the world. What we have established is that the age at which asthma first starts is critically related to its outcomes in later life”. This research means that early-onset of asthma is not as easy to prevent, as it relies on environmental factors less. Policy makers should take that into account and straighten the regulation of tobacco products, introduce information campaigns in order to inform people about the connection between smoking and progression of asthma.

World Health Organization says that asthma cannot be cured and its causes are still not fully understood. Scientists do know that allergens, tobacco smoke, chemical irritants and some other substances may trigger quicker progression of asthma and now they know it can be prevented. Therefore, it is interesting to see what will be implications of this knowledge on the public health policy.

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