RESEARCHERS are set to pinpoint when lung health declines in younger smokers.

Researchers in Southampton and London have launched a national study which aims to pinpoint when lung health starts to decline in young adult smokers.

Led by Professor Tom Wilkinson at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, it is hoped the project will help clinicians work towards a way of preventing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Funded by the British Lung Foundation, it will involve monitoring the lung function of smokers aged between 30 and 45 over three years through check-up appointments every six months.

Professor Wilkinson, a consultant in respiratory medicine at University Hospital Southampton, said: “COPD develops slowly over a number of years but it is not currently known at what point the disease develops, as most people do not have any symptoms until significant lung damage has occurred.

“Regular lung function testing will allow us to pinpoint when function begins to decline to help identify the onset of the disease.

“This study is about working towards helping us develop treatments that may be available to prevent the disease as opposed to treating it after it is diagnosed when much of the damage is done.”

COPD is the name for a collection of lung diseases including bronchitis and emphysema and causes the airways in the lungs to become inflamed and narrowed, making it hard to breathe.

It is the second most common lung disease in the UK after asthma, affecting an estimated three million people.

Participants in the study, which is being run in collaboration with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, will also be offered advice and support on how to quit smoking.

Bethany Armstead, respiratory research sister at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, said: “This study has the potential to be very important in advancing our knowledge about how smoking changes lung function pre-COPD.

“It is also a great opportunity to utilise current public engagement with the Stoptober campaign and participants will also receive support to help them try to stop smoking, so we are hopeful we can obtain useful information while also helping people to quit along the way should they wish.”