BACKGROUND: The prevalence of asthma is rising and there are recent reports of increasing asthma rates among top level skiers and runners in the Nordic countries. METHODS: The lifetime occurrence of pulmonary diseases (asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema) and current bronchitis symptoms was compared in former elite male athletes (n = 1282) who represented Finland between 1920 and 1965 at least once in international competitions and controls (n = 777) who, at the age of 20, were classified as healthy and who responded to a questionnaire in 1985. The presence of disease and symptoms was identified from the questionnaire and, in the case of asthma, also from a nationwide reimbursable medication register. The death certificates of the subjects of our original cohort who died between 1936 and 1985 were also investigated to determine the cause of death. RESULTS: The occurrence of the pulmonary diseases was associated with age, smoking habits, occupational group, and a history of exposure to chemicals. After adjusting for these variables, athletes who participated in mixed sports (odds ratio (OR) 0.46, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.23 to 0.92) and power sports (OR 0.43, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.87) had lower odds ratios for emphysema, and endurance sports athletes had a lower odds ratio for the presence of at least one pulmonary disease (OR 0.53, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.98) when compared with controls. Athletes also tended to have fewer reimbursable medications for asthma and fewer current symptoms for chronic bronchitis. Between 1936 and 1985 two controls but none of the athletes died of asthma. CONCLUSIONS: The lifetime occurrence of asthma or other pulmonary diseases is not increased in former elite athletes, and exercise alone, even in a cold environment, did not appear to increase the prevalence of asthma, at least up to the mid 1980s.
We studied the cumulative incidence, concordance rate and heritability for diabetes mellitus in a nationwide cohort of 13,888 Finnish twin pairs of the same sex. The twins were born before 1958 and both co-twins were alive in 1967. Data on diabetes were derived through computerized record linkage from death certificates, the National Hospital Discharge Register and the National Drug Register. Records were reviewed in order to assign a diagnostic category to the 738 diabetic patients identified. Of these patients 109 had Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, 505 Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, 46 gestational diabetes, 24 secondary diabetes, 38 impaired glucose tolerance and 16 remained unclassified. The cumulative incidence of diabetes was 1.4% in men and 1.3% in women aged 28-59 years and 9.3% and 7.0% in men and women aged 60 years and over, respectively. The cumulative incidence did not differ between monozygotic and dizygotic twins. The concordance rate for Type 1 diabetes was higher among monozygotic (23% probandwise and 13% pairwise) than dizygotic twins (5% probandwise and 3% pairwise). The probandwise and pairwise concordance rates for Type 2 diabetes were 34% and 20% among monozygotic twins and 16% and 9% in dizygotic twins, respectively. Heritability for Type 1 diabetes was greater than that for Type 2 where both genetic and environmental effects seemed to play a significant role.
The belief that life stress enhances breast cancer is common, but there are few prospective epidemiological studies on the relationship of life stress and breast cancer. We have investigated the association between stress of daily activities (SDA) and breast-cancer risk in a prospective cohort study of 10,519 Finnish women aged 18 years or more. SDA measures a subject's own appraisal of daily stress. It was assessed in 1975 and 1981 by a self-administered questionnaire, which also provided information on subject characteristics and other known breast-cancer risk factors. Follow-up data for breast cancer from 1976 to 1996 were attained through record linkage to the Finnish Cancer Registry. Study subjects were divided into 3 groups based on their SDA scores in 1975: no stress (23% of subjects), some stress (68%) and severe stress (9%). Hazard ratios (HRs) and respective 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for incidence of breast cancer by level of SDA were obtained from the Cox proportional hazards model. We identified 205 incident breast cancers in the cohort. Multivariable-adjusted HRs for breast-cancer risk were 1.00 (reference), 1.11 (95% CI 0.78-1.57) and 0.96 (95% CI 0.53-1.73) by increasing level of stress. Neither shifting of the SDA cut-off points nor restricting the analysis to women who reported the same level of SDA in 1975 and 1981 materially altered the results. We found no evidence of an association between self-perceived daily stress and breast-cancer risk.
Nickel allergy was studied in a sample of 1st-year university students starting their studies in 1995. A total of 296 subjects (72%) of 413 invited participated in the clinical examination, and 284, 96 male and 188 female, were patch tested (69%). A history of nickel sensitization was enquired for. Prick tests and serum specific IgE levels were determined. Occurrence of atopic dermatitis, hand eczema, and current exposure to metals were recorded. Nickel allergy was encountered in 39% of all female students, in 42% of females with pierced skin, and in 14% of females without pierced skin. The corresponding figures for males were 3%, 7% and 3%. In the multiple regression analysis, the risk factors for nickel allergy were female sex (OR 8.1, p
Leptin is involved in the regulation of body weight, but the relative role of genetic and environmental influences on inter-individual variation in leptin levels is unknown.
To investigate the genetic and environmental contributions to the association of body mass index (BMI) with serum leptin levels, 58 monozygotic (MZ, 27M, 31F), and 74 like-sexed dizygotic (DZ, 32M, 42F) Finnish twin pairs aged 50--76 y were studied.
Serum leptin levels, weight, height, hip and waist measurements.
Women had higher mean leptin levels (16.8+/-9.5 ng/ml), and more overall variability in leptin levels than men (6.4+/-3.5 ng/ml; P
The authors investigated whether self-reported life satisfaction predicted suicide over a period of 20 years (1976-1995) in adults unselected for mental health status.
A nationwide sample of adults aged 18-64 years (N=29,173) from the Finnish Twin Cohort responded to a health questionnaire that included a life satisfaction scale (score range=4-20, with higher scores indicating greater dissatisfaction) that covered four items: interest in life, happiness, general ease of living, and feeling of loneliness. "Dissatisfied" subjects (life satisfaction score=12-20) were compared to "satisfied" subjects (score=4-6). Mortality data were derived from the national registry and analyzed with Cox regression.
Dissatisfaction at baseline (life satisfaction score=12-20) was associated with a higher risk of suicide throughout the 20-year follow-up period (age-adjusted hazard ratio=3.02, 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.83-4.98). The association was somewhat stronger in the first decade (hazard ratio=4.46, 95% CI=1.95-10.20) than in the second (hazard ratio=2.34, 95% CI=1.24-4.45). A dose-response relationship was also found. Men with the highest degrees of dissatisfaction (life satisfaction score=19-20) were 24.85 times as prone to commit suicide as satisfied men during the first 10 years of the follow-up period. Throughout the entire follow-up, life dissatisfaction still predicted suicide after adjusting for age, sex, baseline health status, alcohol consumption, smoking status, and physical activity (hazard ratio=1.74, 95% CI=1.02-2.97). Subjects who reported dissatisfaction at baseline and again 6 years later showed a high suicide risk (hazard ratio=6.84, 95% CI=1.99-23.50) compared to those who repeatedly reported satisfaction.
Life dissatisfaction has a long-term effect on the risk of suicide, and this seems to be partly mediated through poor health behavior. Life satisfaction seems to be a composite health indicator.
Environmental factors are needed to explain the observed increase in the prevalence of asthma during recent decades, despite the existence of a recognised genetic component in asthma. A co-twin case-control study was undertaken to examine possible social risk factors for asthma.
Asthma diagnoses were based on register data of reimbursed asthma medication. During 17 years follow up of the Finnish twin cohort, 262 twin pairs discordant for incident asthma were identified. Conditional logistic regression for 1-1 matched data was used for risk calculation.
The atopic twin had an increased risk of asthma compared with the non-atopic co-twin (RR 2.91, 95% CI 1.81 to 4.68). The more educated twin had a decreased risk of asthma compared with his/her twin sibling with less education (RR 0.45, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.86), and the twin who participated in conditioning exercise had a decreased risk of asthma compared with the more sedentary co-twin (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.88).
In addition to allergic diseases, educational level and physical activity are associated with adult onset asthma, which indicates a role for factors associated with life style.
Cites: Eur Respir J. 1999 Jan;13(1):2-410836314
Cites: Int J Epidemiol. 1993 Dec;22(6):976-828144310
This study examined the change in heritability of adult body height across birth cohorts in Finland.
In 1981, cross-sectional questionnaires were completed by 10,968 twin pairs born before 1958. The effect of genetic factors was estimated via genetic modeling.
Heritability increased from the cohort born before 1929 (0.76, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.65, 0.88 in men; 0.66, 95% CI = 0.55, 0.77 in women) to that born in 1947 through 1957 (0.81, 95% CI = 0.73, 0.87 in men; 0.82, 95% CI = 0.75, 0.89 in women).
Heritability of height increased across Finnish birth cohorts born in the first half of this century and leveled off after World War II. Environmental factors, compared with genetic factors, appear to be more important among women than men.
To evaluate genetic influences on the use and abuse of alcohol, we compared questionnaire measures of the frequency, quantity, and density of social drinking, and the frequency of alcohol-induced passouts self-reported by 879 monozygotic (MZ) and 1940 dizygotic (DZ) pairs of twin brothers, aged 24-49 yr. The measures of frequency, quantity, and density (heavy drinking once or more a month) significantly intercorrelate, and the self-reported alcohol consumption by this sample is satisfactorily stable and consistent with nationwide sales figures. None of the drinking measures was associated with twin type (zygosity), and only density correlated with age. Similarity of drinking habits among twin brothers was evaluated as a function of their genetic resemblance and age, the frequency of their social contact with one another, and the interactions of these terms. The effects were estimated from hierarchical linear regressions of a double-entry data matrix from which each twin's drinking was predicted from that of his twin brother, and that pair's age, zygosity, cohabitation status, and frequency of social contact. Significant genetic variance was found for each of the drinking measures with heritability estimates ranging from 0.36 to 0.40. Co-twins in more frequent social contact with one another reported greater similarity in their use of alcohol, but heritable variance remained after the effects of age and social contact were removed from both mean levels and co-twin resemblance. Reported frequency of passouts yielded significant, but equivalent, correlations in both MZ and DZ twins and no evidence of genetic influence.