Variations emerge among adults living with pulmonary fibrosis

A 3D rendering of the lungs

After reviewing data from more than 4,700 adults with pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive lung disease, NHLBI-supported researchers found the condition affects people differently. The findings, which may inform ways to support earlier screenings and alleviate health disparities, published in JAMA Network Open.

About 13 to 20 out of every 100,000 people worldwide, including 100,000 Americans, have pulmonary fibrosis. The condition, which is more common among adults ages 50-70, results in a buildup of scar tissue in the lungs that can make it hard to breathe. Shortness of breath and coughing are
common symptoms. Based on this review, researchers found that Black adults were more likely to develop pulmonary fibrosis a decade earlier, in their late 50s, compared to white adults. The average age for Hispanic adults who developed pulmonary fibrosis was 65. Compared to white and Hispanic adults, Black adults with pulmonary fibrosis were also more likely to experience severe outcomes, including requiring hospital care, needing a lung transplant, or dying, at earlier ages. 

The researchers also found that autoimmune or rheumatological-linked conditions were more common among Black adults, while pulmonary fibrosis following exposure to bacteria, fungi, or chemicals was more prevalent among Hispanic adults. They concluded more research is needed to understand and address pulmonary fibrosis-related health disparities.