We all have read that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and strokes. There have also been numerous studies published over the years linking long term heavy smoking to increased risk of seropositive RA and to severe arthritis activity. Smoking has also been shown to be a risk factor for rheumatoid nodules in early stages of RA. Now, a recent study published in the August issue of the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases found that smoking doubled the risk of RA for women who do not have a genetic predisposition to the disease.
Contrary to the researchers’ expected outcome, smoking did not exacerbate the risk for women who had the two most important known genetic risk factors for RA, HLA-DRB1 polymorphism and GSTM1 polymorphism. The researchers had hypothesized that the exposure to tobacco and the genetic risk factors would affect each other, raising the risk for RA higher than either factor alone. The researchers suggested that this result might not have occurred because genetic disposition is such a strong indicator of RA development. However, they also cautioned that these results require confirmation by other studies.
Another limitation of the study was that it involved only postmenopausal Caucasian women with a mean age of about 60. The study included more than 600 women who were enrolled in the Iowa Women’s Health Study, a long-term survey based study of women spanning 11 years. More research would be needed to determine of other age groups and ethnicities would be similarly affected.
Published On: August 16, 2006