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The American Cancer Society study also linked exposure to secondhand smoke in adulthood with increased risk of premature death from COPD and several other conditions.
“Overall, our findings provide further evidence for reducing secondhand smoke exposure throughout life,” said study leader W. Ryan Diver, a cancer society epidemiologist.
His team examined data from nearly 71,000 American adults who never smoked. Most were between 50 and 74 years of age when the study began. They were followed for 22 years.
During that time, those who said they had lived with a daily smoker throughout childhood were 31 percent more likely to die of COPD than those who did not grow up in a smoking household, the findings showed.
That works out to about seven additional deaths per year for every 100,000 never-smoking adults, Diver said in a news release from the American Cancer Society.
The researchers focused on COPD deaths, but said their findings suggested that adults who lived with a smoker during childhood may also have a higher risk of non-fatal COPD. The observational study only found an association, however, and did not prove cause and effect.
In addition, the investigators found that people exposed to secondhand smoke 10 or more hours a week in adulthood had a 9 percent higher risk of early death overall; a 27 percent higher risk of death from heart disease; a 23 percent higher risk of a fatal stroke; and a 42 percent higher risk of dying from COPD.
“This is the first study to identify an association between childhood exposure to secondhand smoke and death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in middle age and beyond,” Diver said in the news release.
“The results also suggest that adult secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease death,” he added.
The study was published Aug. 16 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.