Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition that can affect the lungs, digestive tract, and other organs throughout the body. It affects both children and adults worldwide.

CF is a progressive, life threatening condition that causes thick mucus to build up in the airways and digestive tract. Symptoms can include:

  • chronic cough
  • wheezing
  • frequent chest colds and sinus infections

There is no cure for CF, but treatments can help extend a person’s lifespan and improve quality of life.

This article reviews the statistics surrounding CF, risk factors, how a person inherits the condition, and more.

A parent is feeding a child.Share on Pinterest
Maskot/Getty Images

According to a 2022 analysis, an estimated 162,428 people live with CF across 94 countries. Of these, they estimate doctors diagnosed about 65% of all cases.

The American Lung Association estimate is a bit lower. The organization indicates that about 70,000 people worldwide are living with CF. It also states that about 30,000 individuals in the United States have the condition, which is more common in Caucasian people.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation provides another estimate of about 105,00 diagnosed cases in 94 different countries. It also notes that it can affect people of any race or ethnicity.

According to the provided statistics, the estimated number of cases of CF worldwide is somewhere between 70,000 and 165,000.

The exact number of adults living with CF is not clear.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation notes that over half of those living with the condition in the United States are 18 years or older. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s figures for people with CF, this equates to around 20,000 adults with the condition.

The American Lung Association’s estimates suggest that at least 15,000 adults in the United States have CF.

It is unclear how many adults have the condition worldwide.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, doctors diagnose about 1,000 new cases of CF annually in the United States. About 75% of people with CF receive a diagnosis before the age of 2 years.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation states that over half of people with CF are aged 18 years or over, so fewer than 20,000 children in the United States have the condition. Roughly 55,000 children worldwide have a CF diagnosis.

However, these figures are estimates, and the actual number of cases may be different.

Learn more about cystic fibrosis in children.

The main risk factor for CF is having two biological parents who carry the genetic mutation that characterizes CF.

Some factors can determine the severity of the condition. These include:

  • exposure to smoke
  • not gaining or maintaining sufficient weight
  • lack of exercise or physical activity
  • aging, as a person loses a little bit of lung function every year

Additionally, five classes of CF gene mutations exist. People with classes 1, 2, and 3 tend to have more severe symptoms.

The CF gene is recessive. This means a person has to inherit two copies of the gene, one from each biological parent, to have the condition. For someone to have CF, both parents need to be carriers or have CF themselves.

The risks of a child having CF if both biological parents are carriers with one gene mutation are as follows:

  • 25% risk that the child will neither have nor be a carrier of CF
  • 50% risk that the child will be a carrier of CF but not have the condition
  • 25% risk that the child will have CF

Currently, researchers know of more than 1,700 mutations that can cause CF. Screening tests only look at the most common ones, so it is possible an infant may have CF even if screening tests come back negative.

Learn more about genetics and cystic fibrosis.

The following sections provide answers to frequently asked questions about CF.

Who is most likely to get cystic fibrosis?

According to the American Lung Association, CF is most common in Caucasian people. However, individuals of every race and ethnicity can have the condition.

Is cystic fibrosis still terminal?

CF still has no cure. Treatments have come a long way and allow people to live into their 40s and beyond. Studies continue to look for a cure and ways to increase quality of life.

What are the odds of getting cystic fibrosis?

Both biological parents need to be carriers for someone to have CF. If both parents carry one mutated gene, their child has a 25% or 1 in 4 risk of developing CF.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition that affects anywhere from 70,000 to around 162,428 people worldwide. It affects both adults and children.

A person needs to inherit two mutated copies of the CF gene to have CF. This means both biological parents need to be carriers for the individual to have CF.

Treatments have improved greatly over the past several decades, allowing people to live longer and healthier lives with CF.