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Arch Bronconeumol. 2012 May;48(5):156-60. doi: 10.1016/j.arbres.2011.12.004. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

High altitude and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease prevalence: a casual or causal correlation?

[Article in English, Spanish]

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Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Tijuana, Baja California, México.



Studies on the relationship of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) prevalence and altitude have reported contrasting results. The aim of this COPD case-finding study was to include a larger number of geographical sites to determine if there is an association between altitude and COPD prevalence.


Individuals aged 40 or older with known COPD risk factors, whether symptomatic or not, were referred by primary-care physicians. After obtaining written informed consent, they were invited to answer a questionnaire and undergo pre- and post-bronchodilator spirometry.


Subjects were recruited in 27 Mexican cities, within an altitude range from 1 to 2,680 m above sea level. We found a weak (-0.31; P<.0001) although significant negative correlation between altitude and COPD prevalence. The COPD rate for cities located ≤1,000 m was 32.7% vs 16.4% for cities located >1,000 m (P<.0001); the rate for cities located at ≤2,000 m was 22.7% vs 15.6% for those >2,000 m; in the multiple logistic regression analysis, older age, male sex, tobacco habit, pack-years of smoking, years of exposure to biomass smoke and city altitude over sea level were significantly associated with COPD prevalence.


Our data shows a significant inverse correlation between prevalence/severity of COPD and altitude.

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