1 in 3 likely to get asthma, study says

TheStar.com – Ontario/healthzone.ca
February 16, 201.   Jennifer Yang,  STAFF REPORTER

One in three people can expect to be diagnosed with asthma at some point in their life, according to a new Ontario study that is the first to quantify lifetime risk for the disease.

Using a novel approach for measuring asthma risk, researchers tracked the medical histories of 9,041,085 Ontarians over 16 years, using data collected between 1991 and 2007 by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the province’s Registered Persons Database.

Researchers were surprised to discover that the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with asthma is 33.9 per cent, a probability comparable to that of being diagnosed with diabetes or cancer, the study’s authors noted.

While the study supported earlier research that asthma is more likely to develop during childhood – data shows most people develop the disease before age 10 – it also showed that the risk of being diagnosed with the disease “persists” into adulthood. Those who have yet to develop asthma by age 10 still face a 20 per cent risk of eventually being diagnosed, and those who have not been diagnosed by 30 still have a 13 per cent chance of developing the respiratory disease.

Researchers defined lifetime using the average life expectancy for Canadians of 80 years, said principal researcher Dr. Teresa To, a clinical epidemiologist with the Hospital for Sick Children.

“This is really the first time we can put a number to the risk of asthma developing in a person’s lifetime,” said To. “What (the study) means is that asthma is really a public health issue because it affects so many people.”

The researchers also found that the risk of developing asthma is higher for women, although the cumulative risk is higher for males in early years. Those living in urban areas or lower-income neighbourhoods are also at greater risk.

The study was a joint effort by researchers at Sick Kids, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). It was published in the Feb. 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Asthma is the most common chronic respiratory disease in Canada and study co-author Dr. Andrea Gershon sees proof of this reality all the time as a respirologist at Sunnybrook.

Gershon, who is also a scientist with ICES, said the technique of studying cumulative life risk has been used before in studying cancer, but never for researching respiratory disease. She explained that ICES has a unique ability to link large administrative health databases together, which enabled researchers to track such a large group of Ontarians over a long period of time.

Gershon says that while people can still be diagnosed with the disease at 80 or 90, asthma tends to strike during childhood so most of its victims suffer for a lifetime. “In that sense, its burden is even larger.”

Toronto Star

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