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Risk Factors

The main risk factor for COPD is smoking. Up to 75 percent of people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. People who have a family history of COPD are more likely to develop the disease if they smoke.

Long-term exposure to other lung irritants also is a risk factor for COPD. Examples of other lung irritants include air pollution, chemical fumes and dusts from the environment or workplace, and secondhand smoke, which is smoke in the air from other people smoking.

Most people who have COPD are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin. Although uncommon, people younger than 40 can have COPD. This may occur, for example, if a person has a predisposing health issue, such as the genetic condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

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Updated: April 28, 2017