Low birth weight and preterm delivery as risk factors for asthma and atopic dermatitis in young adult males

Epidemiology. 2000 Mar;11(2):185-8. doi: 10.1097/00001648-200003000-00018.


Gestational factors have been hypothesized to play a role in the susceptibility to asthma and atopic dermatitis. We examined whether fetal growth was associated with asthma and atopic dermatitis separately in a population of 4,795 male conscripts born between 1973 and 1975 in Denmark. The prevalence of asthma was 4.7%. The prevalence odds ratio of asthma in conscripts with a birth weight below 2,501 g was 1.5 (95% confidence interval = 0.7-3.1) compared with conscripts with a birth weight of 3,001-3,500 g, adjusted for gestational age and potential confounders. The adjusted prevalence odds ratio among conscripts born before 34 gestational weeks was 0.8 (95% confidence interval = 0.3-2.0) compared with conscripts born at term. The prevalence of atopic dermatitis was 1.0%. The prevalence odds ratio of atopic dermatitis among those with a birth weight below 2,501 g was 3.0 (95% confidence interval = 0.8-11.9) compared with those whose birth weight was between 3,001 and 3,500 g. Men whose gestational age had been below 34 weeks had an adjusted prevalence odds ratio of 0.3 (95% confidence interval = 0.0-3.1). These findings indicate that fetal growth retardation rather than preterm delivery of male infants is the main gestational factor underlying the associations but does not explain the apparent increase over time of asthma or atopic diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / etiology*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / complications*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires