Higher Bilirubin Tied to Lower Respiratory Disease Risk

Reduced incidence of respiratory disease, death with higher normal-range level of bilirubin

TUESDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Among patients with bilirubin levels in the normal range, an increased level is associated with a reduced risk of respiratory disease and all-cause death, according to a study published in the Feb. 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Laura J. Horsfall, from the University College London, and colleagues analyzed serum bilirubin levels recorded between 1988 and 2008 in the U.K. Health Improvement Network primary care database. The incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and all-cause mortality was measured.

The investigators found that, in men, the incidence rates per 10,000 person-years decreased for lung cancer from 5.0 in the first decile to 3.0 in the fifth decile. For COPD, the incidence rates decreased from 19.5 in the first decile to 14.4 in the fifth decile, and mortality decreased from 51.3 in the first decile to 38.1 in the fifth decile category of bilirubin. Similar results were observed in women. For a 0.1-mg/dL increase in bilirubin levels, the incidence rates of lung cancer decreased by 8 percent in men and 11 percent in women. For a 0.1-mg/dL increase in bilirubin level, the incidence rates of COPD decreased by 6 percent, and for mortality the decrease was 3 percent. Similar incidence rates were seen in women.

"Moderately higher levels of bilirubin within the range considered normal were associated with reduced risk of respiratory disease and all-cause mortality. Further research is needed to investigate causal associations between bilirubin levels and respiratory outcomes," the authors write.

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