Smoking Increases Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

We have long been writing that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in America, with cigarettes linked to some 443,000 deaths and $100 billion spent in healthcare costs annually.

Now, a Swedish study has revealed that smoking is the cause of about one-third of all cases of severe <"">rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and, that for those people who have a genetic predisposition for RA, smoking accounts for more than half the cases, said the Telegraph.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, looked at over 2,000 people. The researchers asked 1,200 people with RA and 900 without, about their smoking habits, said the Telegraph.

RA, believed to be a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks itself, causes painful joint swelling, and usually presents itself when patients are between the age of 40 to 50, the Telegraph explained. Women tend to be three times likelier to develop RA than men, added the Telegraph.

In those RA patients who are heavy smokers—at least one pack daily for 20 years—they experienced a two and a-half increased likelihood to be diagnosed with the anticitrullinated protein/peptide antibody (ACPA), which is closely linked to the most common and the severest form of RA, said the Telegraph.

The researchers concluded that smoking was responsible for about 25 percent of all ACPA-positive RA cases and one-fifth of all RA cases, according to the Telegraph.

The research also found that the RA risk reduced once the person stopped smoking, but only in all but the heaviest of smokers. The report appears in the online British Medical Journal’s Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, wrote the Telegraph.

According to Jane Tadman, of the Arthritis Research UK, said, quoted the Telegraph, “We’ve also known for some time that lifestyle factors such as smoking, and also eating a lot of red meat and drinking large amounts of caffeine may also affect the risk of developing the disease. As there is little you can do about changing your genetic make-up, it seems sensible to reduce the other risk factors that you actually have some control over. So stopping smoking would be one obvious way of doing this.”

Worldwide, said Reuters previously, citing the World Health Organization (WHO), cigarettes kill five million people in the form of tobacco-related heart attacks, strokes, and cancers; an additional 430,000 adults die each year from inhaling second-hand smoke.

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