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Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis –Smoking Education Level and Glucose Tolerance

June 18, 2007

Studies were presented at the EULAR 2007, the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology in Barcelona, Spain which pinpointed a number of different risk factors for a person to develop rheumatoid arthritis. These risk factors include both environmental as well as genetic risk factors that can contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking, the level of education, and metabolic indicators all contribute to the risk factors for developing the disease.

One study showed that smoking increased the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis with an odds ratio of 1.77; 95% confidence interval 1.13 to 2.78. This study also showed a relationship with education and rheumatoid risk factor. If a person had only an elementary school education only when compared against a university degree education had an odds ratio of 2.46 confidence interval 1.20 to 5.02. The researchers point out that education factor alone may increase the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Another study presented at the conference was a link with smoking and rheumatoid arthritis, but also compared how glucose tolerance was also a predictor of the disease. A lower glucose level when measured after 120 minutes of an oral glucose tolerance test showed and odds ratio of 1.19 per mmol/L; confidence interval 1.04 to 1.35. Seperately measured was the risk for smoking with the odds ration being 1.64; confidence interval 1.08 to 2.48. The researchers suggest that both diet and genetics of metabolism are important risk factors that contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

“The determinants for developing RA in any population are clearly complex and often unrelated. These studies help us to add more pieces to the giant jigsaw of risk factors for one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting approximately 1% of adults worldwide,” said Dr Ulf Bergström from the Malmö University Hospital, Sweden, lead investigator on both of these studies. “We hope these findings will contribute to better understanding of future RA prevention and treatment. Whilst the glucose tolerance findings contrast with previous studies linking impaired tolerance to established RA, they suggest that other mechanisms may be important years before RA onset. Our results will pave the way for future debate and research to pinpoint its definitive causes.”

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