A new Tulane University study published in the Lancet journal has shown the scale of the challenge facing China in its battle with COPD.
Almost 100 million Chinese people are now suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - some 8.6% of the country’s total population, with the research - which screened the lungs of more than 50,000 participants - considered the most comprehensive ever conducted in the country.
COPD is a common condition that usually affects adults who smoke, or who have smoked.
It causes frequent breathlessness, chest infections and a persistent cough, with the symptoms getting worse over time.
With air pollution and tobacco smoking rates in the country both extremely high, it comes as little surprise that China faces a major issue with the condition. However the scale of the problem is the real shock.
That’s partially explained by the fact that many people with COPD in China are unaware they have it, with only 2.6% of patients having a knowledge of the issue prior to diagnosis.
Although smoking was closely linked to development of the condition, a minority of non-smokers were also found to have developed COPD - with high pollution levels, low education and genetic factors highlighted as the reasons for this.
Speaking about the findings, Chair of Epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, Dr Jiang He, said: “Our research shows that COPD is highly prevalent in the Chinese adult population. The biggest preventable risk factors for the disease are cigarette smoking and air pollution.
“Prevention programs and increased efforts to catch COPD early should be public-health priorities in China to reduce COPD-related diseases and deaths.”
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