There is evidence suggesting that the prevalence of asthma has increased, especially in industrialized countries.
To investigate whether the prevalence of asthma in Danish children and adolescents has changed during the past 15 years.
Serial cross-sectional studies of 2 different random population samples of children aged 7 to 17 years, living in urban Copenhagen, Denmark, were performed 15 years ... [Show full abstract] apart. The first cohort was investigated in 1986 (n = 527) and the second in 2001 (n = 480). The same methods were applied at both occasions. Skin test reactivity was measured using standard techniques. Asthma was defined on the basis of questionnaire responses and was regarded as nonatopic (intrinsic) if no positive reactions were observed on the skin test and as atopic (extrinsic) if at least 1 positive reaction was noted. Current asthma was defined as symptoms within the preceding 12 months.
The prevalence of current asthma increased from 5.3% in 1986 to 11.7% in 2001. This was primarily due to an increase in intrinsic asthma, which was 4.2-fold (1.5% to 6.4%), compared with extrinsic asthma, which increased only 1.4-fold (3.8% to 5.5%). The changes were more pronounced in girls.
The prevalence of asthma has increased substantially during the past 15 years. The observed striking increase in intrinsic asthma suggests the possibility of a more heterogeneous disorder, involving more important factors than atopy. Furthermore, our findings suggest that asthma might be shifting toward female predominance in childhood.