This article is part of MPR‘s coverage of the American Thoracic Society’s International Conference, taking place in San Diego, California. Our staff will report on medical research related to asthma and other respiratory conditions, conducted by experts in the field. Check back regularly for more news from ATS 2018.

SAN DIEGO — Adult premenopausal women who take oral contraceptives are at an increased risk for lifetime asthma, according to research presented at the American Thoracic Society 2018 International Conference, held from May 18 to 23 in San Diego, California.

Researchers from the departments of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio conducted a cross-sectional study using data from a clinical registry. The study included 6,524,990 women who were 20 to 50 years old with a diagnosis of lifetime asthma treated with bronchodilators or inhaled corticosteroids. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were excluded.

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Of the women included, 2,116,000 (13.9%) were taking oral contraceptives and 692,470 (10.6%) were diagnosed with lifetime asthma. Asthma prevalence was higher in women taking oral contraceptives (14.3% vs 8.8%; P <.001), and oral contraceptive use was linked with an increased risk for asthma diagnosis (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.77; P<.001).

The risk for asthma was also increased in white women (OR, 1.17), women who were between ages 20 and 29 vs 30 and 39 (OR, 1.16), women who were between ages 40 and 49 vs 30 and 39 (OR, 1.20), women with body mass index between 25 and 30 vs 18.5 and 25 (OR, 1.27), and women with body mass index >30 vs 18.5 to 25 (OR, 1.67).

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The research also supports the suggested role that sex hormones have in asthma pathophysiology; however, further research is needed.


Morales-Estrella JL, Zein JG. Oral contraception is associated with higher risk of lifetime asthma in women of reproductive age. Presented at: American Thoracic Society 2018 International Conference; May 18-23, 2018; San Diego, CA. Abstract 1342.

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This article originally appeared on Pulmonology Advisor