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: NIH]. Moreover, in the 1980s, people with cystic fibrosis had an average life expectancy of 14 years [source: Disabled World].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 [source: Disabled World]. 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 3,500 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 1 in 25 people carries the gene for cystic fibrosis [source: Disabled World].
Cystic fibrosis is generally diagnosed early in life. Approximately 80 percent of people are diagnosed by age 3 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].