New research shows that idiopathic interstitial pneumonia (IIP), a group of potentially fatal disorders that affects the lungs, may be caused by an interaction between a specific genetic background and cigarette smoking. In a study of 111 families that had at least two relatives with IIP, people who smoked cigarettes were three times more likely than non-smokers to develop the disease. The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), both institutes within the National Institutes of Health.
IIPs are often accompanied by scarring and inflammation of the lung known as pulmonary fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis makes the delivery of oxygen to the body’s tissues difficult and is often fatal. About one-half of patients die within the first five years of being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The study appearing in the November 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care provides new insight into what might cause IIP and new directions for preventing these diseases.
"This study illustrates the important role that a specific environmental exposure, in this case cigarette smoking, can play in the development of this type of lung disease among people who have a specific gene,” said David A. Schwartz, M.D., NIEHS Director and a lead researcher on the study. “It once again underscores why people should not smoke.”
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