Breath test does not detect lung diseases in smokers, study says

Breath test does not detect lung diseases in smokers, study says

More than half of smokers and ex-smokers who are considered healthy because they can undergo a lung capacity test actually suffer from chronic lung diseases, according to a study released on Monday.



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“The effects of chronic smoking on the lungs and overall health are very underestimated,” said James Crapo, a professor of medicine at National Jewish Health (NJH) Denver (Colorado, western US).

“Pulmonary diseases are frequent among smokers whose lung capacity tests gave normal results,” commented the doctor about a study published in the American magazine JAMA Internal Medicine.

By taking into account other clinical criteria related to some physical and respiratory functions, and after conducting tests with a scanner, the authors determined that 55% of study participants who were declared healthy in fact suffer from various forms of chronic lung diseases.

The study was based on 8,872 individuals aged 45 to 80 who smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day for ten years. Most of them smoked for an average of 35 years, and some 50 years.

The scanner determined that 42% of the participants – whose lungs appeared healthy at the respiratory capacity test – suffered from emphysema or thickening in the airways.

About 23% of them had a marked thickening of the respiratory walls, compared with 3.7% of people who never smoked.

Overall, both smokers and ex-smokers have a much worse quality of life than those who never smoked.

Many of these people are probably in the early stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Both are the third cause of death in the US, according to the researchers.

These incurable diseases rarely occur in people under 55 years.

Recent research has shown that the examination with scanner for people who smoked a pack of cigarettes at least 30 years can clearly be able to detect early lung cancer and reduce mortality by 20%.

A survey earlier of chronic lung diseases can also help to improve the symptoms and quality of life, scientists say.

“We hope this study helps debunk the myth of the smoker who enjoys good health and raise awareness about important tobacco prevention,” said Elisabeth Regan, professor of medicine assistant in NJH.

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