A new study found US Hispanics and Latinos under age 50 had a 7.6% prevalence of COPD, which had associated risk factors including asthma, ever-smoking, and chronic sinusitis.

According to an ATS press release, several studies have identified risk factors in predominantly white older populations, however, early studies of Hispanics/Latinos have been lacking. This study is one of the largest to explore risk factors for early COPD in Hispanics/Latinos, ATS said.

Researchers examined data on 7,323 individuals under age 50 who participated in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos to identify risk factors and estimate early COPD prevalence using statistical tools (logistic regression analysis).  The team estimated population attributable risk (PAR) of the risk factors.

Five hundred twenty-four survey respondents met the criteria for early COPD. After adjusting for sex and age, the researchers found a 7.6% prevalence of COPD in this age group. Increased odds of developing COPD before age 50 was associated with chronic sinusitis, having ever smoked, and asthma, which was the most important early COPD risk factor.

“This is one of the largest studies showing an association between chronic sinusitis and early COPD. Chronic sinusitis and early COPD share symptoms (coughing and sputum production), so there may be some diagnostic overlap. We think that the findings may encourage further investigation on the link between these two conditions,” Alejandro A. Diaz, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate scientist at the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.

Another surprising finding:  Immigrants have a lower risk of early COPD than US-born Hispanics/Latinos. 

“One possible reason for this finding is that immigrants, particularly those coming to the US as adults, were less exposed to respiratory hazards during the period of lung development compared to their US-born counterparts,” Diaz said. “Immigrants tend to be healthier than their home-country population, which likely decreases the risk for chronic respiratory diseases.”

He added, “Other studies demonstrate that most US Hispanics/Latinos live in areas that do not meet standard norms of clean air, so this relationship needs further exploration.”

The authors noted: “One critical public health measure to reduce early COPD risk is smoking cessation/tobacco treatment (including vaped and other non-burnt tobacco products). Efforts to increase awareness and access to treatment programs are critical. These efforts include culturally sensitive and bilingual (English and Spanish) programs about education, counseling, and therapies for tobacco treatment. Also, measures to reduce exposure to respiratory hazards at work (use of masks, avoidance of irritating cleaning products, etc.) are essential in this population.”