Cystic fibrosis is a genetic, life-threatening disorder. Historically, people with cystic fibrosis did not live past their teenage years. In the 1960s, most children with cystic fibrosis did not live past preschool age [source: Cystic Fibrosis Canada]. Moreover, not so long ago in the 1980s, people with cystic fibrosis had an average life expectancy of 14 years. With modern technology and treatment, however, people with this condition can live well into later adulthood [source: Mayo Clinic]. Some statistics, however, report a much more conservative life expectancy estimate of 35 years [source: Disabled World]. In any event, the life expectancy of people with cystic fibrosis is gradually increasing. Approximately 90 percent of infants born with cystic fibrosis will live past a year. Currently, the forecasted life expectancy of babies born today is 40 years old [source: Disabled World]. Infants who have normal pancreas function, however, are expected to life past 50 years old.
Cystic fibrosis is most common in Caucasians of northern European descent. In the United States, approximately 30,000 people are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, with 1,000 new cases each year. The condition occurs in approximately 1 out of 3,000 live births in North America. Cystic fibrosis is slightly more common in the United Kingdom, with the condition occurring in 1 in 2,400 live births. About 25 percent of the population are carriers for cystic fibrosis. [source: Disabled World].
Cystic fibrosis is generally diagnosed early in life. Approximately 80 percent of people are diagnosed by age three and approximately 10 percent of people are diagnosed by age 18 [source: Disabled World]. The frequency of cystic fibrosis diagnosis, however, does depend on the availability of health care services. In Canada, a country with centralized health care, 90 percent of patients are diagnosed by age 10 [source: Cystic Fibrosis Canada].