Cardiovascular diseases and cancer (especially lung cancer) are leading causes of morbidity and mortality in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Some have implicated systemic inflammation, which is commonly observed in COPD, as the potential mechanistic bridge between COPD and these disorders. This concept has been supported by animal studies especially in rabbits, which have clearly demonstrated the effect of local lung inflammation on systemic inflammation and on the progression of atherosclerosis and by cross-sectional population-based studies, which have shown a significant relationship between systemic inflammation, as measured by circulating C-reactive protein (CRP) and the risk of cardiovascular diseases in COPD patients. These data have been further extended by a recent study that has elucidated the temporal nature of the relationship between systemic inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular events and cancer in COPD patients. This study showed that baseline CRP levels predicted the incidence of cardiovascular events and cancer-specific mortality over 7 to 8 years of follow-up. CRP levels also predicted all-cause mortality. Collectively, these data indicate that systemic inflammation may play an important role in mediating the extra-pulmonary complications of COPD. Systemic inflammation may contribute substantially to the overall morbidity and mortality of COPD patients.