The latest research findings have uncovered a link between early childhood exposure to secondhand smoke and arthritis in later life.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and although the cause isn’t fully understood, it is believed that it’s a result of environmental factors interacting with genetics. The hypothesis states that environmental factors may induce changes to some tissue. These changes are believed to occur decades before the onset of the actual disease.
The current study looked at the link between smoking status, including childhood and adult exposure to secondhand smoke and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
The study looked at 98,995 French volunteers who were followed since 1990. The women answered self-administered questionnaires every two to three years regarding medical events, lifestyle, and environmental characteristics. Arthritis diagnosis was attained in three successive questionnaires and was confirmed if the women were taking arthritis medications.
The study confirmed that adult smoking was linked with a higher risk of arthritis. Furthermore, current and past smoker with passive exposure as a child also had a higher risk of arthritis compared to children not exposed. The study also suggested that nonsmokers who were exposed to smoke as children had a risk of arthritis later in life. The risk was similar to that of adult smokers, about 40 percent.
Lead author Dr. Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault concluded, “Further study is needed to explore if this increased risk is also mainly observed in people carrying the gene at risk for rheumatoid arthritis, which is quite likely with regard to tobacco. These results also highlight the importance of children–especially those with a family history of this form of arthritis–avoiding secondhand smoke.”
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