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Nearly 100 million people across country have chronic condition
China has nearly 100 million people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, placing the respiratory condition among the country"s biggest public health challenges, a national study has found.
Starting mid-2012, the three-year nationwide study covered nearly 51,000 participants 20 years or older. The findings were published recently in the international medical journal The Lancet.
The study found that 8.6 percent of participants had the disease, with the elderly and smokers at higher risk.
It was led by Wang Chen, a top respiratory disease expert and president of both the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College.
People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions. It killed more than 870,000 Chinese in 2016, roughly 9 percent of disease-related deaths, according to the National Health Commission.
"The study further alerts us to the severity of COPD, an underestimated health threat here, and one that is expected to rise further due to the heavy smoking epidemic and aging trend," Wang said on Wednesday.
According to the study, more than 40 percent of smokers over 60 have COPD.
Other risk factors include poor education, long-term exposure to air pollution, particularly PM2.5 (tiny hazardous airborne particles). Risk factors also include chronic coughing, ultralow body weight and a family history of respiratory disease, the study found.
But the study did not find a direct causal link between PM2.5 exposure and COPD, just correlation, said Yang Ting, a respiratory disease doctor at China-Japan Friendship Hospital, who participated in the study.
Wang called for more attention and grants by the government to support related research.
Moreover, public health efforts should be enhanced to better curb COPD, as public awareness remains low, he said.
Less than 10 percent of respondents had ever taken a pulmonary function test, a tool for COPD diagnosis, and at most 3 percent of the sufferers were aware of their condition, it found.
Wang suggested those who are susceptible, like smokers, be tested regularly for early detection and treatment.
He urged health authorities nationwide to devise public health programs like targeted screening methods and health education to promote public awareness and better control.