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Chiropractic Research Review

Smoking Linked to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Evidence suggests that environmental risk factors may influence the development and progression of rheumatoid arthritis, the most common form of arthritis in the United States.

The potential association of one such modifiable risk factor, cigarette smoking, with risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was assessed in a study of 377,481 female health care professionals.

As part of the Womens' Health Cohort Study, subjects completed mailed questionnaires concerning health habits, cigarette smoking history and medical history, including any RA diagnosis.

Results: Smoking was associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, even after accounting for potential confounding variables such as age, race, education, pregnancy history, menopausal status and postmenopausal hormone use.

A relationship between smoking and RA was noted in terms of duration (number of years of smoking) but not intensity (number of cigarettes per day). Women who smoked the longest (> 20 years) faced a 24-39% increase in the risk of developing RA compared with nonsmokers and a 30-49% increased risk of seropositive RA.

These findings further highlight the hazards of cigarette smoking, which has already been linked to chronic diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease. Health care professionals should share this information with their patients and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Karlson E, Min-Lee I, Cook N, et al. A retrospective cohort study of cigarette smoking and risk of rheumatoid arthritis in female health professionals. Arthritis & Rheumatism, May 1999:42(5), pp910-917.

Chiropractic Research Review

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