Lung function tests are used both clinically, in assessing disease, and epidemiologically, in identifying those factors which influence the growth and aging process of the lungs. The user must beware of several common pitfalls in the use of these tests, however. First, the commonly used tests of lung function can only identify patterns of dysfunction, not specific pathologic processes. Second, these tests are subject to many sources of intra- and inter-subject variability, making it difficult to dissect out the signal (for example, the rate of lung aging in adults) from the noise which may greatly exceed the signal. Finally, the analysis of longitudinal pulmonary function data is complicated by the alinearity of the growth and aging process, missing data, variable follow-up times, information censoring mechanisms and covariate processes, and problems in defining abnormality.