Some people are genetically predisposed to developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is due to a mutation that prevents a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAt) from exiting the liver. This protein is produced in the liver and used by the body to fix environmental damage in the lungs. With this mutation, AAt is produced in excess causing polymerization, or chains of the protein that are too big to exit the liver. People with this mutation are more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and/or cirrhosis of the liver. A person can live with the mutation and be completely healthy or have one cigarette and develop emphysema. Researchers who found the genetic mutations have said that the major risk factors for developing COPD are whether or not that person smokes.
This mutation seems to work differently on a case to case basis. Recently, a person close to me developed COPD and after reading this article I was concerned that it could be genetic. However, half way through the article it stated that smoking was still the biggest cause of COPD and the person close to me had been a smoker for over 40 years. The second article below states facts about COPD including the statistic that 3.2 million people died of COPD in 2015.