From 1954 to 1961, pulmonary function was assessed in 2,718 British men by forced expiratory maneuvers, and mucus hypersecretion and smoking habits were assessed by questionnaires. In 20 to 25 yr of follow-up, 104 men (all of whom had smoked) died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The risk of death from COPD was strongly correlated with the initial degree of air-flow obstruction. Among men with similar initial air-flow obstruction, however, age-specific COPD death rates were not significantly related to initial mucus hypersecretion, supporting the concept that air-flow obstruction and mucus hypersecretion are largely independent disease processes. A moderate relationship existed between initial mucus hypersecretion and subsequent lung cancer mortality, but it is not known whether this was due solely to a common correlation of both conditions with the effective degree of exposure of the large bronchi to causative factors such as tobacco smoke.
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