Ane Johannessen and colleagues at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, examined 433 patients with COPD and 325 control subjects who participated in the Bergen COPD Cohort Study from 2006 to 2009.
The researchers assessed risk factors for COPD.
The study, published in the journal Respirology, found children exposed to passive smoke when they were growing up almost doubled their risk for COPD and respiratory symptoms in adulthood.
However, there were gender differences. Women exposed to passive smoke during childhood had an almost two-fold greater risk of COPD than women who had not been exposed, a larger risk than that faced by men exposed to passive smoke during childhood in comparison to men not exposed to smoke.
"Our results suggest that the long-term burden of COPD could be reduced if children were not exposed to cigarette smoke," Johannessen said in a statement. "Further, they indicate that factors affecting early-life development of lung function has important long-term consequences for adult life."