Lung disease epidemiology: evaluation of methods suitable for analyzing change in respiratory symptoms in longitudinal studies

In the past two decades, researchers have examined how lung health is affected by changes in smoking and environmental and occupational exposures, and in the process have learned a great deal about the way lung disease develops. However, most of these studies focused on lung function tests rather than information on chest symptoms, even though detailed information on these symptoms has been collected in a questionnaire used around the world since 1978. A change in symptoms, not in lung function, is the most common reason people seek medical attention and express concerns about potentially harmful workplace exposures. Victoria Arrandale is examining data on changes in coughing, phlegm, wheezing and breathlessness to determine if unused data on these symptoms can help explain the development of chronic pulmonary disease, and contribute to disease prevention through occupational surveillance programs. The results could flag early signs that have been overlooked until now. Ultimately, the goal is to lessen the impact of occupational lung disease by controlling exposures and developing early methods of diagnosing disease onset.