Alcohol doesn’t worsen chronic lung conditions

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - There is no link between drinking alcohol and the likelihood of worsening chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, according to a study of patients seen at Veteran Affairs hospitals.

COPD includes conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. “While tobacco consumption has a well-established role in COPD-related morbidity, relatively less is known about the association between alcohol use and COPD,” Dr. Courtney C. Greene of the University of Washington, Seattle, and colleagues write in the medical journal Chest.

The researchers looked at alcohol consumption and COPD exacerbation in more than 30,000 VA outpatients and followed for more than 3 years. Over 8000 had a prior diagnosis of COPD.

During follow-up, 2094 patients suffered a COPD flare-up, 1760 of whom already had COPD.

At first, it seemed that the odds of a COPD exacerbation increased with the amount of alcohol drunk regularly, up to a certain point, and with binge drinking. However, that association disappeared once smoking was factored in.

As Greene’s team puts it, “It appears from the modest association between alcohol use and COPD exacerbation risk evident in our initial analyses … that alcohol use and misuse may serve as a marker of other important adverse health behaviors, namely tobacco use.”

SOURCE: Chest, October 2008.

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