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Original article
Serum uric acid and the risk of respiratory disease: a population-based cohort study
  1. Laura J Horsfall,
  2. Irwin Nazareth,
  3. Irene Petersen
  1. Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health, Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Laura Horsfall, Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London Medical School, Royal Free Campus, London NW3 2PF, UK; laura.horsfall{at}


Introduction Uric acid is the most abundant molecule with antioxidant properties found in human blood serum. We examined the relationship between serum uric acid and the incidence of respiratory disease including any effect modification by smoking status.

Methods A cohort with serum uric acid measured between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2012 was extracted from The Health Improvement Network primary care research database. New diagnoses of COPD and lung cancer were ascertained based on diagnostic codes entered into the medical records.

Results During 1 002 496 person years (PYs) of follow-up, there were 3901 COPD diagnoses and 1015 cases of lung cancer. After multivariable adjustment, strong interactions with smoking status were detected (p<0.001) for both outcomes with significant negative relationships between serum uric acid and respiratory disease for current smokers but no strong relationships for never-smokers or ex-smokers. The relationships were strongest for lung cancer in heavy smokers (≥20 cigarettes per day) with predicted incidence rates 97 per 10 000 PYs (95% CI 68 to 126) in the lowest serum uric acid quintile (100–250 µmol/L) compared with a predicted 28 per 10 000 PYs (95% CI 14 to 41) in the highest quintile (438–700 µmol/L).

Conclusions Low levels of serum uric acid are associated with higher rates of COPD and lung cancer in current smokers after accounting for conventional risk factors.

  • COPD epidemiology
  • Lung Cancer
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Tobacco and the lung

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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