The liability to asthma is influenced both by genetic and environmental factors. The objective of this study was to identify risk factors for asthma in young adult twin pairs during an 8-year period.
From the birth cohorts 1953-1982 of the Danish Twin Registry, 6,090 twin pairs who were initially unaffected with respect to asthma at a nationwide questionnaire-based study in 1994 participated in a similar follow-up study in 2002. Subjects were regarded incident asthma cases when responding affirmatively to the question 'Do you have, or have you ever had asthma'? in 2002. Pairs in which only one twin developed asthma -- discordant pairs -- were identified and conditional logistic regression was applied to detect effects of risk factors.
A total of 126 monozygotic (MZ) and 273 dizygotic (DZ) discordant twin pairs were identified. In MZ twins hay fever (OR = 3.16, 95% CI: 1.29-7.73, P = 0.007) and exercise (OR for inactivity = 0.35, 95% CI: 0.13-0.91, P = 0.023) were significantly associated with asthma, whereas in DZ twins, hay fever (OR = 2.44, 95% CI: 1.44-4.13, P = 0.001), eczema (OR = 1.96, 95% CI: 1.02-3.78, P = 0.040), female sex (OR between males and females = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.36-0.80, P = 0.002), and increasing levels of body mass index (BMI; OR per unit = 1.11, 95% CI: 1.02-1.20, P = 0.009) were significant predictors of asthma.
Hay fever, eczema, female sex, exercise and increasing levels of BMI were risk factors for asthma in young adults. The different risk profile observed in MZ twins compared with DZ twins may reflect an underlying genetic vulnerability shared between those risk factors and asthma.
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