Introduction: Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnicity of the US population and the largest subset includes those of Mexican origin. Hispanics, including Mexican Americans (MAs), consistently report less tobacco exposure than European Americans (EAs), but limited data are available regarding differences in the clinical characteristics, severity of airflow obstruction, and functional status between MAs and EAs with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Methods: Participants in a community-based study of aging and frailty among MAs and EAs, San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, underwent spirometry. Participants with spirometry values consistent with COPD by Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) criteria are described here.
Results: Thirty-four percent (248/721) of the participants who underwent spirometry had evidence of GOLD Stages 1-4 COPD. Significantly more MAs with COPD reported being never smokers compared to EAs with COPD. Among those with COPD who also smoked, MAs reported significantly less tobacco exposure than EAs (15.7 vs. 32.4 pack-years, respectively), but both groups had surprisingly similar severities of airflow obstruction. Additionally, MAs had worse functional status and perceived health than did EAs.
Conclusions: Despite significantly less exposure to tobacco smoke, MAs with COPD had a similar degree of obstruction to airflow compared with EAs with COPD. Healthcare providers should have a high index of suspicion for COPD in MAs who are exposed to even small amounts of cigarette smoke.