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Original research
Air pollution associated with incidence and progression trajectory of chronic lung diseases: a population-based cohort study


Background No prior study has examined the effects of air pollution on the progression from healthy to chronic lung disease, subsequent chronic lung multimorbidity and further to death.

Methods We used data from the UK Biobank of 265 506 adults free of chronic lung disease at recruitment. Chronic lung multimorbidity was defined as the coexistence of at least two chronic lung diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The concentrations of air pollutants were estimated using land-use regression models. Multistate models were applied to assess the effect of air pollution on the progression of chronic lung multimorbidity.

Results During a median follow-up of 11.9 years, 13 863 participants developed at least one chronic lung disease, 1055 developed chronic lung multimorbidity and 12 772 died. We observed differential associations of air pollution with different trajectories of chronic lung multimorbidity. Fine particulate matter showed the strongest association with all five transitions, with HRs (95% CI) per 5 µg/m3 increase of 1.31 (1.22 to 1.42) and 1.27 (1.01 to 1.57) for transitions from healthy to incident chronic lung disease and from incident chronic lung disease to chronic lung multimorbidity, and 1.32 (1.21 to 1.45), 1.24 (1.01 to 1.53) and 1.91 (1.14 to 3.20) for mortality risk from healthy, incident chronic lung disease and chronic lung multimorbidity, respectively.

Conclusion Our study provides the first evidence that ambient air pollution could affect the progression from free of chronic lung disease to incident chronic lung disease, chronic lung multimorbidity and death.

  • COPD epidemiology
  • asthma epidemiology
  • lung cancer

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request.

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