RA and Smoking. . . . m
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|Tue, 03-25-2003 - 11:11am|
Health Media Ltd
Rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when the body's immune system attacks the joints, is two to three times more common in women. Although its causes are not properly understood, age, diet, obesity and a history of smoking are all associated with an increased risk of the disease.
Experts are unsure why more women develop the disease than men. Previous research has suggested than female sex hormones and factors such as taking the contraceptive pill and having an abortion could increase the risk.
The researchers, from Stanford University, looked at 2,625 people to investigate the link between smoking and rheumatoid arthritis. They collected data on age, height, education and smoking habits.
The results revealed that smoking was only a risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis in men.
The researchers then measured the levels of a rogue antibody called rheumatoid factor in the patients. Rheumatoid factor is believed to make the body's immune system attack the joints and is found in 80 per cent of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.
The production of rheumatoid factor is linked to smoking. However, the researchers found that pre-menopausal women block this effect, effectively removing smoking as a risk factor.
The authors say this study has uncovered interesting differences between the susceptibility of men and women to the disease. They add that further research is needed to help understand the interactions between smoking, rheumatoid arthritis and gender.
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