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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) - Cause

COPD is most often caused by smoking. Most people with COPD are long-term smokers, and research shows that smoking cigarettes increases the risk of getting COPD:2

  • Some studies show that up to half of long-term smokers older than age 60 get COPD.3
  • Smoking both tobacco and marijuana increases the risk of COPD more than smoking either one.1

COPD is often a mix of two diseases: chronic bronchitis camera.gif and emphysema camera.gif. Both of these diseases are caused by smoking. Although you can have either chronic bronchitis or emphysema, people more often have a mixture of both diseases.

Other causes

Other possible causes of COPD include:

  • Long-term exposure to lung irritants such as industrial dust and chemical fumes.
  • Preterm birth that leads to lung damage (neonatal chronic lung disease).
  • Inherited factors (genes), including alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. This is a rare condition in which your body may not be able to make enough of a protein (alpha-1 antitrypsin) that helps protect the lungs from damage. People who have this disorder and who smoke generally start to have symptoms of emphysema in their 30s or 40s. Those who have this disorder but don't smoke generally start to have symptoms in their 80s.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: January 24, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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