Smoking Cigarettes Increases Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Postmenopausal Women

New research has determined that cigarette smoking can increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis among postmenopausal women. This is according to a study published in the April issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

In a population based study, Dr. Kenneth G. Saag at the University of Alabama at Birmingham examined data from 31,336 women who participated in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. The women were 55 to 69 years of age and did not have any history of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at baseline in 1986. The patients were followed and data was collected through 1997. After reviewing medical records and supplementary physician information, 158 cases of rheumatoid arthritis were confirmed.

The data showed that in comparison with women who had never smoked, those women who were current smokers (relative risk 2.0), or who had quit 10 years before the study baseline (relative risk 1.8) had an increased risk of developing RA.

According to Cr. Saag, both the duration and intensity of smoking were directly associated with the increased risk. Other factors such as adjusting for age, marital status, occupation, weight or body mass index, age at menopause, oral contraceptive use, hormone replacement therapy, alcohol use, and coffee consumption did not alter the study results.

Based on these findings Dr. Saag recommends women abstain from smoking to reduce their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis as well as improve their overall health, and suggests RA be included among the health risks associated with smoking.

“Our results, along with those of prior studies, indicate that RA should be added to the list of smoking-related diseases,” Dr. Saag said.

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