Study links a history of smoking to increased risk of the debilitating autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis in men, but not women
So what is rheumatoid arthritis
exactly? Simply put, it’s when your body’s immune system
attacks your healthy joints. The result? Reduced mobility and severe pain
. The disease, which affects approximately 2,000,000 people in America alone, is three times more common in women than in men, statistics show.
While doctors still aren’t sure what causes rheumatoid arthritis, they’ve identified obesity
, age, diet and history of smoking as major risk factors.
For the controlled study, the researchers looked at 2,625 people. They found that men with a past history of smoking were at heightened risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Females, on the other hand, didn’t have an increased risk of developing the disease.
Researchers suggested that women’s increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis may be largely due to them outliving men. But this doesn’t properly explain the differences in susceptibility to the autoimmune disease.
Previous research has found that sex hormones may play a key role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Factors such as terminating pregnancies and taking the birth control pill were also found to boost a woman’s risk.
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Researchers devised a survey to analyse men and women to find out what effect smoking had on their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis
Eswar Krishnan of Stanford University and his team of colleagues decided to devise a survey given the gender-specific risks. They set out to find out what effect smoking had on both men and women’s’ chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
The study was controlled and involved comparing rheumatoid arthritis patients to healthy subjects. Researchers collected data on height, age and education as well as details of their gender and smoking habits to discount other factors that may contribute to rheumatoid arthritis.
Initially, researchers found that smoking was only a rheumatoid arthritis risk factor in men. To further investigate these differences, they analysed the levels of rheumatoid factor, a rogue antibody found in 80% of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers that stimulates the immune system
to attack the joints and membranes, found in patients.
Researchers concluded that pre-menopausal women block this pathway, effectively kicking out the effects of smoking.
Researchers concluded that further research is necessary on the interactions between gender, smoking and rheumatoid arthritis.