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1.  Pleiotropic Associations of Risk Variants Identified for Other Cancers With Lung Cancer Risk: The PAGE and TRICL Consortia 
Background
Genome-wide association studies have identified hundreds of genetic variants associated with specific cancers. A few of these risk regions have been associated with more than one cancer site; however, a systematic evaluation of the associations between risk variants for other cancers and lung cancer risk has yet to be performed.
Methods
We included 18023 patients with lung cancer and 60543 control subjects from two consortia, Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) and Transdisciplinary Research in Cancer of the Lung (TRICL). We examined 165 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were previously associated with at least one of 16 non–lung cancer sites. Study-specific logistic regression results underwent meta-analysis, and associations were also examined by race/ethnicity, histological cell type, sex, and smoking status. A Bonferroni-corrected P value of 2.5×10–5 was used to assign statistical significance.
Results
The breast cancer SNP LSP1 rs3817198 was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (odds ratio [OR] = 1.10; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.05 to 1.14; P = 2.8×10–6). This association was strongest for women with adenocarcinoma (P = 1.2×10–4) and not statistically significant in men (P = .14) with this cell type (P het by sex = .10). Two glioma risk variants, TERT rs2853676 and CDKN2BAS1 rs4977756, which are located in regions previously associated with lung cancer, were associated with increased risk of adenocarcinoma (OR = 1.16; 95% CI = 1.10 to 1.22; P = 1.1×10–8) and squamous cell carcinoma (OR = 1.13; CI = 1.07 to 1.19; P = 2.5×10–5), respectively.
Conclusions
Our findings demonstrate a novel pleiotropic association between the breast cancer LSP1 risk region marked by variant rs3817198 and lung cancer risk.
doi:10.1093/jnci/dju061
PMCID: PMC3982896  PMID: 24681604
2.  Impact of Ambient Air Pollution on the Differential White Blood Cell Count in Patients with Chronic Pulmonary Disease 
Inhalation toxicology  2010;22(3):10.3109/08958370903207274.
Epidemiologic studies report associations between particulate air pollution and increased mortality from pulmonary diseases.To examine whether the exposure to ambient gaseous and particulate air pollution leads to an alteration of the differential white blood cell count in patients with chronic pulmonary diseases like chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma.
A prospective panel study was conducted in Erfurt, Eastern Germany, with 12 repeated differential white blood cell counts in 38 males with chronic pulmonary diseases. Hourly particulate and gaseous air pollutants and meteorological data were acquired. Mixed models with a random intercept adjusting for trend, meteorology, weekday, and other risk variables were used.
In this explorative analysis we found an immediate decrease of polymorphonuclear leukocytes in response to an increase of most gaseous and particulate pollutants. Lymphocytes increased within 24 hours in association with all gaseous pollutants but showed no effect in regard to particulate air pollution. Monocytes showed an increase associated with ultrafine particles, and nitrogen monoxide. The effect had two peaks in time, one 0-23 hours before blood withdrawal and a second one with a time lag of 48-71 hours.
The increase of particulate and gaseous air pollution was associated with multiple changes in the differential white blood cell count in patients with chronic pulmonary diseases.
doi:10.3109/08958370903207274
PMCID: PMC3877919  PMID: 20064088
air pollution; C-reactive protein; PM10; differential white blood cell count; ultrafine particles
3.  Air Pollution and Respiratory Infections during Early Childhood: An Analysis of 10 European Birth Cohorts within the ESCAPE Project 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2013;122(1):107-113.
Background: Few studies have investigated traffic-related air pollution as a risk factor for respiratory infections during early childhood.
Objectives: We aimed to investigate the association between air pollution and pneumonia, croup, and otitis media in 10 European birth cohorts—BAMSE (Sweden), GASPII (Italy), GINIplus and LISAplus (Germany), MAAS (United Kingdom), PIAMA (the Netherlands), and four INMA cohorts (Spain)—and to derive combined effect estimates using meta-analysis.
Methods: Parent report of physician-diagnosed pneumonia, otitis media, and croup during early childhood were assessed in relation to annual average pollutant levels [nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5), PM2.5 absorbance, PM10, PM2.5–10 (coarse PM)], which were estimated using land use regression models and assigned to children based on their residential address at birth. Identical protocols were used to develop regression models for each study area as part of the ESCAPE project. Logistic regression was used to calculate adjusted effect estimates for each study, and random-effects meta-analysis was used to calculate combined estimates.
Results: For pneumonia, combined adjusted odds ratios (ORs) were elevated and statistically significant for all pollutants except PM2.5 (e.g., OR = 1.30; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.65 per 10-μg/m3 increase in NO2 and OR = 1.76; 95% CI: 1.00, 3.09 per 10-μg/m3 PM10). For otitis media and croup, results were generally null across all analyses except for NO2 and otitis media (OR = 1.09; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.16 per 10-μg/m3).
Conclusion: Our meta-analysis of 10 European birth cohorts within the ESCAPE project found consistent evidence for an association between air pollution and pneumonia in early childhood, and some evidence for an association with otitis media.
Citation: MacIntyre EA, Gehring U, Mölter A, Fuertes E, Klümper C, Krämer U, Quass U, Hoffmann B, Gascon M, Brunekreef B, Koppelman GH, Beelen R, Hoek G, Birk M, de Jongste JC, Smit HA, Cyrys J, Gruzieva O, Korek M, Bergström A, Agius RM, de Vocht F, Simpson A, Porta D, Forastiere F, Badaloni C, Cesaroni G, Esplugues A, Fernández-Somoano A, Lerxundi A, Sunyer J, Cirach M, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ, Pershagen G, Heinrich J. 2014. Air pollution and respiratory infections during early childhood: an analysis of 10 European birth cohorts within the ESCAPE project. Environ Health Perspect 122:107–113; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1306755
doi:10.1289/ehp.1306755
PMCID: PMC3888562  PMID: 24149084
4.  Early life microbial exposure and fractional exhaled nitric oxide in school-age children: a prospective birth cohort study 
Environmental Health  2013;12:103.
Background
Inflammation is a key factor in the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases. Early life exposure to microbial agents may have an effect on the development of the immune system and on respiratory health later in life.
In the present work we aimed to evaluate the associations between early life microbial exposures, and fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) at school age.
Methods
Endotoxin, extracellular polysaccharides (EPS) and β(1,3)-D-glucan were measured in living room dust collected at 2–3 months of age in homes of participants of three prospective European birth cohorts (LISA, n = 182; PIAMA, n = 244; and INMA, n = 355). Home dampness and pet ownership were periodically reported by the parents through questionnaires. FeNO was measured at age 8 for PIAMA and at age 10/11 for LISA and INMA. Cohort-specific associations between the indoor microbial exposures and FeNO were evaluated using multivariable regression analyses. Estimates were combined using random-effects meta-analyses.
Results
FeNO at school age was lower in children exposed to endotoxin at age 2–3 months (β -0.05, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.10;-0.01) and in children with reported dog ownership during the first two years of life (GM ratio 0.82, CI 0.70-0.96). FeNO was not significantly associated with early life exposure to EPS, β(1,3)-D-glucan, indoor dampness and cat ownership.
Conclusion
Early life exposure to bacterial endotoxin and early life dog ownership are associated with lower FeNO at school age. Further studies are needed to confirm our results and to unravel the underlying mechanisms and possible clinical relevance of this finding.
doi:10.1186/1476-069X-12-103
PMCID: PMC3883521  PMID: 24295277
Fractional exhaled nitric oxide; Endotoxin; Extracellular polysaccharides; β(1,3)-D-glucan; Pets; Dampness; Indoor; Children; Cohort study
5.  Biopersistent Granular Dust and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80977.
Objective
Applying a systematic review to identify studies eligible for meta-analysis of the association between occupational exposure to inorganic dust and the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and conducting a meta-analysis.
Data Sources
Searches of PubMed and Embase for the time period 1970–2010 yielded 257 cross-sectional and longitudinal studies on people exposed to inorganic dust at the workplace with data on lung function. These studies were independently abstracted and evaluated by two authors; any disagreement was resolved by a third reviewer. Of 55 publications accepted for meta-analysis, 27 investigated the effects of occupational exposure to biopersistent granular dust (bg-dust).
Methods
A random effects meta-analysis allowed us to provide an estimate of the average exposure effect on spirometric parameters presented in forest plots. Between-study heterogeneity was assessed by using I2 statistics, with I2>25% indicating significant heterogeneity. Publication bias was investigated by visual inspection of funnel plots. The influence of individual studies was assessed by dropping the respective study before pooling study-specific estimates.
Results
The mean FEV1 of workers exposed to bg-dust was 160 ml lower or 5.7% less than predicted compared to workers with no/low exposure. The risk of an obstructive airway disease—defined as FEV1/FVC < 70%—increased by 7% per 1 mg· m-3 respirable bg-dust.
Conclusion
Occupational inhalative exposure to bg-dust was associated with a statistically significant decreased FEV1 and FEV1/FVC revealing airway obstruction consistent with COPD.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080977
PMCID: PMC3835577  PMID: 24278358
6.  A longitudinal analysis of associations between traffic-related air pollution with asthma, allergies and sensitization in the GINIplus and LISAplus birth cohorts 
PeerJ  2013;1:e193.
Background. There is a need to study whether the adverse effects of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) on childhood asthma and allergic diseases documented during early-life persist into later childhood. This longitudinal study examined whether TRAP is associated with the prevalence of asthma, allergic rhinitis and aeroallergen sensitization in two German cohorts followed from birth to 10 years.
Materials. Questionnaire-derived annual reports of doctor diagnosed asthma and allergic rhinitis, as well as eye and nose symptoms, were collected from 6,604 children. Aeroallergen sensitization was assessed for 3,655 children who provided blood samples. Associations between these health outcomes and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particles with aerodynamic diameters less than 2.5 µg/m3 (PM2.5) mass, PM2.5 absorbance and ozone, individually estimated for each child at the birth, six and 10 year home addresses, were assessed using generalized estimation equations including adjustments for relevant covariates. Odds ratios [95% confidence intervals] per increase in interquartile range of pollutant are presented for the total population and per geographical area (GINI/LISA South, GINI/LISA North and LISA East, Germany).
Results. The risk estimates for the total population were generally null across outcomes and pollutants. The area-specific results were heterogeneous. In GINI/LISA North, all associations were null. In LISA East, associations with ozone were elevated for all outcomes, and those for allergic rhinitis and eyes and nose symptom prevalence reached statistical significance (1.30 [1.02, 1.64] and 1.35 [1.16, 1.59], respectively). For GINI/LISA South, two associations with aeroallergen sensitization were significant (0.84 [0.73, 0.97] for NO2 and 0.87 [0.78, 0.97] for PM2.5 absorbance), as well as the association between allergic rhinitis and PM2.5 absorbance (0.83 [0.72, 0.96]).
Conclusions. This study did not find consistent evidence that TRAP increases the prevalence of childhood asthma, allergic rhinitis or aeroallergen sensitization in later childhood using data from birth cohort participants followed for 10 years in three locations in Germany. Results were heterogeneous across the three areas investigated.
doi:10.7717/peerj.193
PMCID: PMC3828611  PMID: 24255809
Asthma; Allergies; Air pollution; Birth cohort; Children; Long-term exposure; Traffic
7.  Air Pollution Exposure and Lung Function in Children: The ESCAPE Project 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2013;121(11-12):1357-1364.
Background: There is evidence for adverse effects of outdoor air pollution on lung function of children. Quantitative summaries of the effects of air pollution on lung function, however, are lacking due to large differences among studies.
Objectives: We aimed to study the association between residential exposure to air pollution and lung function in five European birth cohorts with a standardized exposure assessment following a common protocol.
Methods: As part of the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE) we analyzed data from birth cohort studies situated in Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom that measured lung function at 6–8 years of age (n = 5,921). Annual average exposure to air pollution [nitrogen oxides (NO2, NOx), mass concentrations of particulate matter with diameters < 2.5, < 10, and 2.5–10 μm (PM2.5, PM10, and PMcoarse), and PM2.5 absorbance] at the birth address and current address was estimated by land-use regression models. Associations of lung function with estimated air pollution levels and traffic indicators were estimated for each cohort using linear regression analysis, and then combined by random effects meta-analysis.
Results: Estimated levels of NO2, NOx, PM2.5 absorbance, and PM2.5 at the current address, but not at the birth address, were associated with small decreases in lung function. For example, changes in forced expiratory volume in 1 sec (FEV1) ranged from –0.86% (95% CI: –1.48, –0.24%) for a 20-μg/m3 increase in NOx to –1.77% (95% CI: –3.34, –0.18%) for a 5-μg/m3 increase in PM2.5.
Conclusions: Exposure to air pollution may result in reduced lung function in schoolchildren.
Citation: Gehring U, Gruzieva O, Agius RM, Beelen R, Custovic A, Cyrys J, Eeftens M, Flexeder C, Fuertes E, Heinrich J, Hoffmann B, de Jongste JC, Kerkhof M, Klümper C, Korek M, Mölter A, Schultz ES, Simpson A, Sugiri D, Svartengren M, von Berg A, Wijga AH, Pershagen G, Brunekreef B. 2013. Air pollution exposure and lung function in children: the ESCAPE project. Environ Health Perspect 121:1357–1364; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1306770
doi:10.1289/ehp.1306770
PMCID: PMC3855518  PMID: 24076757
8.  The influence of sensitisation to pollens and moulds on seasonal variations in asthma attacks 
The European Respiratory Journal  2013;42(4):935-945.
No large study has described the seasonal variation in asthma attacks in population-based asthmatics in whom sensitisation to allergen has been measured.
2637 young adults with asthma living in 15 countries reported the months in which they usually had attacks of asthma and had skin-prick tests performed. Differences in seasonal patterns by sensitisation status were assessed using generalised estimating equations.
Most young adults with asthma reported periods of the year when their asthma attacks were more common (range: 47% in Sweden to 86% in Spain). Seasonal variation in asthma was not modified by sensitisation to house dust mite or cat allergens. Asthmatics sensitised to grass, birch and Alternaria allergens had different seasonal patterns to those not sensitised to each allergen, with some geographical variation. In southern Europe, those sensitised to grass allergens were more likely to report attacks occurred in spring or summer than in winter (OR March/April 2.60, 95% CI 1.70–3.97; OR May/June 4.43, 95% CI 2.34–8.39) and smaller later peaks were observed in northern Europe (OR May/June 1.25, 95% CI 0.60–2.64; OR July/August 1.66, 95% CI 0.89–3.10). Asthmatics reporting hay fever but who were not sensitised to grass showed no seasonal variations.
Seasonal variations in asthma attacks in young adults are common and are different depending on sensitisation to outdoor, but not indoor, allergens.
Seasonal variation in asthma attacks is associated with sensitisation to pollens and moulds, but not indoor allergens http://ow.ly/nsuRS
doi:10.1183/09031936.00097412
PMCID: PMC3787817  PMID: 23471350
9.  The association of smoking status with healthcare utilisation, productivity loss and resulting costs: results from the population-based KORA F4 study 
Background
Smoking is seen as the most important single risk to health today, and is responsible for a high financial burden on healthcare systems and society. This population-based cross-sectional study compares healthcare utilisation, direct medical costs, and costs of productivity losses for different smoking groups: current smokers, former smokers, and never smokers.
Methods
Using a bottom-up approach, data were taken from the German KORA F4 study (2006/2008) on self-reported healthcare utilisation and work absence due to illness for 3,071 adults aged 32-81 years. Unit costs from a societal perspective were applied to utilisation. Utilisation and resulting costs were compared across different smoking groups using generalised linear models to adjust for age, sex, education, alcohol consumption and physical activity.
Results
Average annual total costs per survey participant were estimated as €3,844 [95% confidence interval: 3,447-4,233], and differed considerably between smoking groups with never smokers showing €3,237 [2,802-3,735] and former smokers causing €4,398 [3,796-5,058]. There was a positive effect of current and former smoking on the utilisation of healthcare services and on direct and indirect costs. Total annual costs were more than 20% higher (p<0.05) for current smokers and 35% higher (p<0.01) for former smokers compared with never smokers, which corresponds to annual excess costs of €743 and €1,108 per current and former smoker, respectively.
Conclusions
Results indicate that excess costs for current and former smokers impose a large burden on society, and that previous top-down cost approaches produced lower estimates for the costs of care for smoking-related diseases. Efforts must be focused on prevention of smoking to achieve sustainable containment on behalf of the public interest.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-278
PMCID: PMC3722023  PMID: 23866993
Smoking; Healthcare utilisation; Direct and indirect costs; Bottom-up approach; Germany
10.  Physical Activity in German Adolescents Measured by Accelerometry and Activity Diary: Introducing a Comprehensive Approach for Data Management and Preliminary Results 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65192.
Introduction
Surveillance of physical activity (PA) is increasingly based on accelerometry. However, data management guidelines are lacking. We propose an approach for combining accelerometry and diary based PA information for assessment of PA in adolescents and provide an example of this approach using data from German adolescents.
Methods
The 15-year-old participants comprised a subsample the GINIplus birth cohort (n = 328, 42.4% male). Data on PA was obtained from hip-worn accelerometers (ActiGraph GT3X) for seven consecutive days, combined with a prospective activity diary. Major aspects of data management were validity of wear time, handling of non-wear time and diary comments. After data cleaning, PA and percentage of adolescents meeting the recommendations for moderate-to-vigorous activity (MVPA) per day were determined.
Results
From the 2224 recorded days 493 days (25%) were invalid, mainly due to uncertainties relating to non-wear time (322 days). Ultimately, 269 of 328 subjects (82%) with valid data for at least three weekdays and one weekend day were included in the analysis. Mean MVPA per day was 39.1 minutes (SD ±25.0), with boys being more active than girls (41.8±21.5 minutes vs. 37.1±27.8 minutes, p<0.001). Accordingly, 24.7% of boys and 17.2% of girls (p<0.01) met the WHO recommendations for PA. School sport accounted for only 6% of weekly MVPA. In fact, most MVPA was performed during leisure time, with the majority of adolescents engaging in ball sports (25.4%) and endurance sports (19.7%). Girls also frequently reported dancing and gymnastics (23%).
Conclusion
For assessment of PA in adolescents, collecting both accelerometry and diary-based information is recommended. The diary is vital for the identification of invalid data and non-compliant participants. Preliminary results suggest that four out of five German adolescents do not meet WHO recommendations for PA and that school sport contributes only little to MVPA.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065192
PMCID: PMC3672153  PMID: 23750243
11.  Children with ADHD Symptoms Have a Higher Risk for Reading, Spelling and Math Difficulties in the GINIplus and LISAplus Cohort Studies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63859.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia belong to the most common neuro-behavioral childhood disorders with prevalences of around 5% in school-aged children. It is estimated that 20–60% of individuals affected with ADHD also present with learning disorders. We investigated the comorbidity between ADHD symptoms and reading/spelling and math difficulties in two on-going population-based birth cohort studies. Children with ADHD symptoms were at significantly higher risk of also showing reading/spelling difficulties or disorder (Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.80, p = 6.59×10−13) as compared to children without ADHD symptoms. For math difficulties the association was similar (OR = 2.55, p = 3.63×10−04). Our results strengthen the hypothesis that ADHD and learning disorders are comorbid and share, at least partially, the same underlying process. Up to date, it is not clear, on which exact functional processes this comorbidity is based.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063859
PMCID: PMC3664565  PMID: 23724008
12.  Reference Values of Impulse Oscillometric Lung Function Indices in Adults of Advanced Age 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63366.
Background
Impulse oscillometry (IOS) is a non-demanding lung function test. Its diagnostic use may be particularly useful in patients of advanced age with physical or mental limitations unable to perform spirometry. Only few reference equations are available for Caucasians, none of them covering the old age. Here, we provide reference equations up to advanced age and compare them with currently available equations.
Methods
IOS was performed in a population-based sample of 1990 subjects, aged 45–91 years, from KORA cohorts (Augsburg, Germany). From those, 397 never-smoking, lung healthy subjects with normal spirometry were identified and sex-specific quantile regression models with age, height and body weight as predictors for respiratory system impedance, resistance, reactance, and other parameters of IOS applied.
Results
Women (n = 243) showed higher resistance values than men (n = 154), while reactance at low frequencies (up to 20 Hz) was lower (p<0.05). A significant age dependency was observed for the difference between resistance values at 5 Hz and 20 Hz (R5–R20), the integrated area of low-frequency reactance (AX), and resonant frequency (Fres) in both sexes whereas reactance at 5 Hz (X5) was age dependent only in females. In the healthy subjects (n = 397), mean differences between observed values and predictions for resistance (5 Hz and 20 Hz) and reactance (5 Hz) ranged between −1% and 5% when using the present model. In contrast, differences based on the currently applied equations (Vogel & Smidt 1994) ranged between −34% and 76%. Regarding our equations the indices were beyond the limits of normal in 8.1% to 18.6% of the entire KORA cohort (n = 1990), and in 0.7% to 9.4% with the currently applied equations.
Conclusions
Our study provides up-to-date reference equations for IOS in Caucasians aged 45 to 85 years. We suggest the use of the present equations particularly in advanced age in order to detect airway dysfunction.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063366
PMCID: PMC3655177  PMID: 23691036
13.  Genetic Variation in FADS Genes and Plasma Cholesterol Levels in 2-Year-Old Infants: KOALA Birth Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e61671.
Objective
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes involved in fatty acid metabolism (FADS1 FADS2 gene cluster) are associated with plasma lipid levels. We aimed to investigate whether these associations are already present early in life and compare the relative contribution of FADS SNPs vs traditional (non-genetic) factors as determinants of plasma lipid levels.
Methods
Information on infants’ plasma total cholesterol levels, genotypes of five FADS SNPs (rs174545, rs174546, rs174556, rs174561, and rs3834458), anthropometric data, maternal characteristics, and breastfeeding history was available for 521 2-year-old children from the KOALA Birth Cohort Study. For 295 of these 521 children, plasma HDLc and non-HDLc levels were also known. Multivariable linear regression analysis was used to study the associations of genetic and non-genetic determinants with cholesterol levels.
Results
All FADS SNPs were significantly associated with total cholesterol levels. Heterozygous and homozygous for the minor allele children had about 4% and 8% lower total cholesterol levels than major allele homozygotes. In addition, homozygous for the minor allele children had about 7% lower HDLc levels. This difference reached significance for the SNPs rs174546 and rs3834458. The associations went in the same direction for non-HDLc, but statistical significance was not reached. The percentage of total variance of total cholesterol levels explained by FADS SNPs was relatively low (lower than 3%) but of the same order as that explained by gender and the non-genetic determinants together.
Conclusions
FADS SNPs are associated with plasma total cholesterol and HDLc levels in preschool children. This brings a new piece of evidence to explain how blood lipid levels may track from childhood to adulthood. Moreover, the finding that these SNPs explain a similar amount of variance in total cholesterol levels as the non-genetic determinants studied reveals the potential importance of investigating the effects of genetic variations in early life.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061671
PMCID: PMC3648514  PMID: 23667444
14.  Genome-wide association study of lung function decline in adults with and without asthma 
Background
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified determinants of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and lung function level, however none addressed decline in lung function.
Aim
We conducted the first GWAS on age-related decline in forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1) and in its ratio to forced vital capacity (FVC) stratified a priori by asthma status.
Methods
Discovery cohorts included adults of European ancestry (1441 asthmatics, 2677 non-asthmatics; Epidemiological Study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma (EGEA); Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution And Lung And Heart Disease In Adults (SAPALDIA); European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS)). The associations of FEV1 and FEV1/FVC decline with 2.5 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were estimated. Thirty loci were followed-up by in silico replication (1160 asthmatics, 10858 non-asthmatics: Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC); Framingham Heart Study (FHS); British 1958 Birth Cohort (B58C); Dutch asthma study).
Results
Main signals identified differed between asthmatics and non-asthmatics. None of the SNPs reached genome-wide significance. The association between the height related gene DLEU7 and FEV1 decline suggested for non-asthmatics in the discovery phase was replicated (discovery P=4.8×10−6; replication P=0.03) and additional sensitivity analyses point to a relation to growth. The top ranking signal, TUSC3, associated with FEV1/FVC decline in asthmatics (P=5.3×10−8) did not replicate. SNPs previously associated with cross-sectional lung function were not prominently associated with decline.
Conclusions
Genetic heterogeneity of lung function may be extensive. Our results suggest that genetic determinants of longitudinal and cross-sectional lung function differ and vary by asthma status.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.01.074
PMCID: PMC3340499  PMID: 22424883
Asthma; cohort studies; genome-wide association; lung function decline; heterogeneity
15.  Common variants at 6q22 and 17q21 are associated with intracranial volume 
Nature genetics  2012;44(5):539-544.
During aging, intracranial volume remains unchanged and represents maximally attained brain size, while various interacting biological phenomena lead to brain volume loss. Consequently, intracranial volume and brain volume in late life reflect different genetic influences. Our genome-wide association study in 8,175 community-dwelling elderly did not reveal any genome-wide significant associations (p<5*10−8) for brain volume. In contrast, intracranial volume was significantly associated with two loci: rs4273712 (p=3.4*10−11), a known height locus on chromosome 6q22, and rs9915547, tagging the inversion on chromosome 17q21 (p=1.5*10−12). We replicated the associations of these loci with intracranial volume in a separate sample of 1,752 older persons (p=1.1*10−3 for 6q22 and p=1.2*10−3 for 17q21). Furthermore, we also found suggestive associations of the 17q21 locus with head circumference in 10,768 children (mean age 14.5 months). Our data identify two loci associated with head size, with the inversion on 17q21 also likely involved in attaining maximal brain size.
doi:10.1038/ng.2245
PMCID: PMC3618290  PMID: 22504418
16.  Asthma and lung cancer risk: a systematic investigation by the International Lung Cancer Consortium 
Carcinogenesis  2011;33(3):587-597.
Asthma has been hypothesized to be associated with lung cancer (LC) risk. We conducted a pooled analysis of 16 studies in the International Lung Cancer Consortium (ILCCO) to quantitatively assess this association and compared the results with 36 previously published studies. In total, information from 585 444 individuals was used. Study-specific measures were combined using random effects models. A meta-regression and subgroup meta-analyses were performed to identify sources of heterogeneity. The overall LC relative risk (RR) associated with asthma was 1.28 [95% confidence intervals (CIs) = 1.16–1.41] but with large heterogeneity (I2 = 73%, P < 0.001) between studies. Among ILCCO studies, an increased risk was found for squamous cell (RR = 1.69, 95%, CI = 1.26–2.26) and for small-cell carcinoma (RR = 1.71, 95% CI = 0.99–2.95) but was weaker for adenocarcinoma (RR = 1.09, 95% CI = 0.88–1.36). The increased LC risk was strongest in the 2 years after asthma diagnosis (RR = 2.13, 95% CI = 1.09–4.17) but subjects diagnosed with asthma over 10 years prior had no or little increased LC risk (RR = 1.10, 95% CI = 0.94–1.30). Because the increased incidence of LC was chiefly observed in small cell and squamous cell lung carcinomas, primarily within 2 years of asthma diagnosis and because the association was weak among never smokers, we conclude that the association may not reflect a causal effect of asthma on the risk of LC.
doi:10.1093/carcin/bgr307
PMCID: PMC3291861  PMID: 22198214
17.  A Genome Wide Association Study of Plasma Total IgE Concentration in the Framingham Heart Study 
Background
Atopy and plasma IgE concentration are genetically complex traits, and the specific genetic risk factors that lead to IgE dysregulation and clinical atopy are an area of active investigation.
Objective
To ascertain the genetic risk factors which lead to IgE dysregulation.
Methods
A genome wide association study (GWAS) was performed in 6,819 participants from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS). Seventy of the top SNPs were selected based on p-values and linkage disequilibrium among neighboring SNPs and evaluated in a meta-analysis with five independent populations from the KORA, B58C, and CAMP cohorts.
Results
Thirteen SNPs located in the region of three genes, FCER1A, STAT6, and IL-13, were found to have genome-wide significance in the FHS GWAS. The most significant SNPs from the three regions were rs2251746 (FCER1A, p-value 2.11×10-12), rs1059513 (STAT6, p-value 2.87×10-08), and rs1295686 (IL-13, p-value 3.55×10-08). Four additional gene regions - HLA-G, HLA-DQA2, HLA-A, and DARC - reached genome-wide statistical significance in meta-analysis combining FHS and replication cohorts, although the DARC association did not appear independent of SNPs in the nearby FCER1A gene.
Conclusion
This GWAS of the FHS has identified genetic loci in HLA genes that may have a role in the pathogenesis of IgE dysregulation and atopy. It also confirmed the association of known susceptibility loci, FCER1A, STAT6, and IL-13, for the dysregulation of total IgE.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2011.09.029
PMCID: PMC3293994  PMID: 22075330
total IgE; atopy; asthma; GWAS
18.  Long-term exposure to NO2 and PM10 and all-cause and cause-specific mortality in a prospective cohort of women 
We assessed whether long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with all-cause and cause-specific mortality during a period of declining particulate matter concentrations.
Approximately 4800 women aged 55 years from North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, were followed for up to 18 years. Exposure to air pollution was assessed in two ways: (1) using the distance between the residential address and the nearest major road, as calculated from Geographic Information System data and (2) calculating 1-year average particulate matter concentrations below 10 µm (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels using data from the nearest air-monitoring station data to the subjects’ residences. Ninety-two per cent of all subjects lived in the same community during the entire follow-up period. Associations between mortality and exposure were assessed using Cox's proportional hazards models, including confounder adjustment.
Sixteen per cent of women passed away during the follow-up period. An increase of 7 μg/m3 PM10 (IQR) was associated with an increased HR for all-cause (HR 1.15, 95% CI (1.04 to 1.27)), cardiopulmonary (HR 1.39, 95% CI (1.17 to 1.64)), and lung cancer mortality (HR 1.84, 95% CI (1.23 to 2.74)). An increase of 16 μg/m3 (IQR) NO2 exposure was associated with all-cause (HR 1.18, 95% CI (1.07 to 1.30)) and cardiopulmonary mortality (HR 1.55, 95% CI (1.30 to 1.84)). The association between cardiopulmonary mortality and PM10 was reduced for the extended follow-up period, during which PM10 concentrations (but not NO2 concentrations) were lower. Living close to a major road was associated with an increased relative risk for all-cause, cardiopulmonary and respiratory mortality. These associations were temporally stable.
Long-term exposure to ambient PM10 and NO2 was associated with increased mortality rates.
doi:10.1136/oemed-2012-100876
PMCID: PMC3585480  PMID: 23220504
19.  Environmental exposure assessment in European birth cohorts: results from the ENRIECO project 
Environmental Health  2013;12:8.
Environmental exposures during pregnancy and early life may have adverse health effects. Single birth cohort studies often lack statistical power to tease out such effects reliably. To improve the use of existing data and to facilitate collaboration among these studies, an inventory of the environmental exposure and health data in these studies was made as part of the ENRIECO (Environmental Health Risks in European Birth Cohorts) project. The focus with regard to exposure was on outdoor air pollution, water contamination, allergens and biological organisms, metals, pesticides, smoking and second hand tobacco smoke (SHS), persistent organic pollutants (POPs), noise, radiation, and occupational exposures. The review lists methods and data on environmental exposures in 37 European birth cohort studies. Most data is currently available for smoking and SHS (N=37 cohorts), occupational exposures (N=33), outdoor air pollution, and allergens and microbial agents (N=27). Exposure modeling is increasingly used for long-term air pollution exposure assessment; biomonitoring is used for assessment of exposure to metals, POPs and other chemicals; and environmental monitoring for house dust mite exposure assessment. Collaborative analyses with data from several birth cohorts have already been performed successfully for outdoor air pollution, water contamination, allergens, biological contaminants, molds, POPs and SHS. Key success factors for collaborative analyses are common definitions of main exposure and health variables. Our review emphasizes that such common definitions need ideally be arrived at in the study design phase. However, careful comparison of methods used in existing studies also offers excellent opportunities for collaborative analyses. Investigators can use this review to evaluate the potential for future collaborative analyses with respect to data availability and methods used in the different cohorts and to identify potential partners for a specific research question.
doi:10.1186/1476-069X-12-8
PMCID: PMC3564791  PMID: 23343014
Environment; Europe; Exposure assessment; Birth cohort; Review
20.  Informed Conditioning on Clinical Covariates Increases Power in Case-Control Association Studies 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(11):e1003032.
Genetic case-control association studies often include data on clinical covariates, such as body mass index (BMI), smoking status, or age, that may modify the underlying genetic risk of case or control samples. For example, in type 2 diabetes, odds ratios for established variants estimated from low–BMI cases are larger than those estimated from high–BMI cases. An unanswered question is how to use this information to maximize statistical power in case-control studies that ascertain individuals on the basis of phenotype (case-control ascertainment) or phenotype and clinical covariates (case-control-covariate ascertainment). While current approaches improve power in studies with random ascertainment, they often lose power under case-control ascertainment and fail to capture available power increases under case-control-covariate ascertainment. We show that an informed conditioning approach, based on the liability threshold model with parameters informed by external epidemiological information, fully accounts for disease prevalence and non-random ascertainment of phenotype as well as covariates and provides a substantial increase in power while maintaining a properly controlled false-positive rate. Our method outperforms standard case-control association tests with or without covariates, tests of gene x covariate interaction, and previously proposed tests for dealing with covariates in ascertained data, with especially large improvements in the case of case-control-covariate ascertainment. We investigate empirical case-control studies of type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, age-related macular degeneration, and end-stage kidney disease over a total of 89,726 samples. In these datasets, informed conditioning outperforms logistic regression for 115 of the 157 known associated variants investigated (P-value = 1×10−9). The improvement varied across diseases with a 16% median increase in χ2 test statistics and a commensurate increase in power. This suggests that applying our method to existing and future association studies of these diseases may identify novel disease loci.
Author Summary
This work describes a new methodology for analyzing genome-wide case-control association studies of diseases with strong correlations to clinical covariates, such as age in prostate cancer and body mass index in type 2 diabetes. Currently, researchers either ignore these clinical covariates or apply approaches that ignore the disease's prevalence and the study's ascertainment strategy. We take an alternative approach, leveraging external prevalence information from the epidemiological literature and constructing a statistic based on the classic liability threshold model of disease. Our approach not only improves the power of studies that ascertain individuals randomly or based on the disease phenotype, but also improves the power of studies that ascertain individuals based on both the disease phenotype and clinical covariates. We apply our statistic to seven datasets over six different diseases and a variety of clinical covariates. We found that there was a substantial improvement in test statistics relative to current approaches at known associated variants. This suggests that novel loci may be identified by applying our method to existing and future association studies of these diseases.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003032
PMCID: PMC3493452  PMID: 23144628
21.  Exposure to second-hand smoke and direct healthcare costs in children – results from two German birth cohorts, GINIplus and LISAplus 
Background
Although the negative health consequences of the exposure to second hand tobacco smoke during childhood are already known, evidence on the economic consequences is still rare. The aim of this study was to estimate excess healthcare costs of exposure to tobacco smoke in German children.
Methods
The study is based on data from two birth cohort studies of 3,518 children aged 9-11 years with information on healthcare utilisation and tobacco smoke exposure: the GINIplus study (German Infant Study On The Influence Of Nutrition Intervention Plus Environmental And Genetic Influences On Allergy Development) and the LISAplus study (Influence of Life-Style Factors On The Development Of The Immune System And Allergies In East And West Germany Plus The Influence Of Traffic Emissions And Genetics). Direct medical costs were estimated using a bottom-up approach (base year 2007). We investigated the impact of tobacco smoke exposure in different environments on the main components of direct healthcare costs using descriptive analysis and a multivariate two-step regression analysis.
Results
Descriptive analysis showed that average annual medical costs (physician visits, physical therapy and hospital treatment) were considerably higher for children exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke at home (indoors or on patio/balcony) compared with those who were not exposed. Regression analysis confirmed these descriptive trends: the odds of positive costs and the amount of total costs are significantly elevated for children exposed to tobacco smoke at home after adjusting for confounding variables. Combining the two steps of the regression model shows smoking attributable total costs per child exposed at home of €87 [10–165] (patio/balcony) and €144 [6–305] (indoors) compared to those with no exposure. Children not exposed at home but in other places showed only a small, but not significant, difference in total costs compared to those with no exposure.
Conclusions
This study shows adverse economic consequences of second-hand smoke in children depending on proximity of exposure. Tobacco smoke exposure seems to affect healthcare utilisation in children who are not only exposed to smoke indoors but also if parents reported exclusively smoking on patio or balcony. Preventing children from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke might thus be desirable not only from a health but also from an economic perspective.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-344
PMCID: PMC3506539  PMID: 23031351
22.  FADS1 FADS2 Gene Cluster, PUFA Intake and Blood Lipids in Children: Results from the GINIplus and LISAplus Studies 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37780.
Background
Elevated cholesterol levels in children can be a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases in later life. In adults, it has been shown that blood lipid levels are strongly influenced by polymorphisms in the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) gene cluster in addition to nutritional and other exogenous and endogenous determinants. Our aim was to investigate whether lipid levels are determined by the FADS genotype already in children and whether this association interacts with dietary intake of n-3 fatty acids.
Methods
The analysis was based on data of 2006 children from two German prospective birth cohort studies. Total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides were measured at 10 years of age. Six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the FADS gene cluster were genotyped. Dietary n-3 fatty acid intake was assessed by food frequency questionnaire. Linear regression modeling was used to assess the association between lipid levels, n-3 fatty acid intake and FADS genotype.
Results
Individuals carrying the homozygous minor allele had lower levels of total cholesterol [means ratio (MR) ranging from 0.96 (p = 0.0093) to 0.98 (p = 0.2949), depending on SNPs] and LDL [MR between 0.94 (p = 0.0179) and 0.97 (p = 0.2963)] compared to homozygous major allele carriers. Carriers of the heterozygous allele showed lower HDL levels [β between −0.04 (p = 0.0074) to −0.01 (p = 0.3318)] and higher triglyceride levels [MR ranging from 1.06 (p = 0.0065) to 1.07 (p = 0.0028)] compared to homozygous major allele carriers. A higher n-3 PUFA intake was associated with higher concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and lower triglyceride levels, but these associations did not interact with the FADS1 FADS2 genotype.
Conclusion
Total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglyceride concentrations may be influenced by the FADS1 FADS2 genotype already in 10 year old children. Genetically determined blood lipid levels during childhood might differentially predispose individuals to the development of cardiovascular diseases later in life.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037780
PMCID: PMC3357401  PMID: 22629455
23.  Effect of Five Genetic Variants Associated with Lung Function on the Risk of Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, and Their Joint Effects on Lung Function 
Rationale: Genomic loci are associated with FEV1 or the ratio of FEV1 to FVC in population samples, but their association with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has not yet been proven, nor have their combined effects on lung function and COPD been studied.
Objectives: To test association with COPD of variants at five loci (TNS1, GSTCD, HTR4, AGER, and THSD4) and to evaluate joint effects on lung function and COPD of these single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and variants at the previously reported locus near HHIP.
Methods: By sampling from 12 population-based studies (n = 31,422), we obtained genotype data on 3,284 COPD case subjects and 17,538 control subjects for sentinel SNPs in TNS1, GSTCD, HTR4, AGER, and THSD4. In 24,648 individuals (including 2,890 COPD case subjects and 13,862 control subjects), we additionally obtained genotypes for rs12504628 near HHIP. Each allele associated with lung function decline at these six SNPs contributed to a risk score. We studied the association of the risk score to lung function and COPD.
Measurements and Main Results: Association with COPD was significant for three loci (TNS1, GSTCD, and HTR4) and the previously reported HHIP locus, and suggestive and directionally consistent for AGER and TSHD4. Compared with the baseline group (7 risk alleles), carrying 10–12 risk alleles was associated with a reduction in FEV1 (β = –72.21 ml, P = 3.90 × 10−4) and FEV1/FVC (β = –1.53%, P = 6.35 × 10−6), and with COPD (odds ratio = 1.63, P = 1.46 × 10−5).
Conclusions: Variants in TNS1, GSTCD, and HTR4 are associated with COPD. Our highest risk score category was associated with a 1.6-fold higher COPD risk than the population average score.
doi:10.1164/rccm.201102-0192OC
PMCID: PMC3398416  PMID: 21965014
FEV1; FVC; genome-wide association study; modeling risk
24.  Transient receptor potential genes, smoking, occupational exposures and cough in adults 
Respiratory Research  2012;13(1):26.
Background
Transient receptor potential (TRP) vanilloid and ankyrin cation channels are activated by various noxious chemicals and may play an important role in the pathogenesis of cough. The aim was to study the influence of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TRP genes and irritant exposures on cough.
Methods
Nocturnal, usual, and chronic cough, smoking, and job history were obtained by questionnaire in 844 asthmatic and 2046 non-asthmatic adults from the Epidemiological study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma (EGEA) and the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS). Occupational exposures to vapors, gases, dusts, and/or fumes were assessed by a job-exposure matrix. Fifty-eight tagging SNPs in TRPV1, TRPV4, and TRPA1 were tested under an additive model.
Results
Statistically significant associations of 6 TRPV1 SNPs with cough symptoms were found in non-asthmatics after correction for multiple comparisons. Results were consistent across the eight countries examined. Haplotype-based association analysis confirmed the single SNP analyses for nocturnal cough (7-SNP haplotype: p-global = 4.8 × 10-6) and usual cough (9-SNP haplotype: p-global = 4.5 × 10-6). Cough symptoms were associated with exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke and occupational exposures (p < 0.05). Four polymorphisms in TRPV1 further increased the risk of cough symptoms from irritant exposures in asthmatics and non-asthmatics (interaction p < 0.05).
Conclusions
TRPV1 SNPs were associated with cough among subjects without asthma from two independent studies in eight European countries. TRPV1 SNPs may enhance susceptibility to cough in current smokers and in subjects with a history of workplace exposures.
doi:10.1186/1465-9921-13-26
PMCID: PMC3342106  PMID: 22443337
Asthma; Gene-environment interaction; Irritant exposure; Smoking; TRP channel
25.  Gestational Weight Gain and Body Mass Index in Children: Results from Three German Cohort Studies 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33205.
Introduction
Previous studies suggested potential priming effects of gestational weight gain (GWG) on offspring’s body composition in later life. However, consistency of these effects in normal weight, overweight and obese mothers is less clear.
Methods
We combined the individual data of three German cohorts and assessed associations of total and excessive GWG (as defined by criteria of the Institute of Medicine) with offspring’s mean body mass index (BMI) standard deviation scores (SDS) and overweight at the age of 5–6 years (total: n = 6,254). Quantile regression was used to examine potentially different effects on different parts of the BMI SDS distribution. All models were adjusted for birth weight, maternal age and maternal smoking during pregnancy and stratified by maternal pre-pregnancy weight status.
Results
In adjusted models, positive associations of total and excessive GWG with mean BMI SDS and overweight were observed only in children of non- overweight mothers. For example, excessive GWG was associated with a mean increase of 0.08 (95% CI: 0.01, 0.15) units of BMI SDS (0.13 (0.02, 0.24) kg/m2 of ‘real’ BMI) in children of normal-weight mothers. The effects of total and excessive GWG on BMI SDS increased for higher- BMI children of normal-weight mothers.
Discussion
Increased GWG is likely to be associated with overweight in offspring of non-overweight mothers.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033205
PMCID: PMC3310864  PMID: 22457745

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