Smokers exposed to tobacco as a child through passive smoking have an even higher risk developing rheumatoid arthritis, new research suggests.
The results of a French study presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology 2017 in Spain confirmed the link between smoking and the risk of developing RA.
The results also suggested that passive smoking in childhood significantly increased this risk.
To analyse the impact of active and passive smoking on the risk of developing RA, researchers at University Hospitals of South Paris tracked the health of more than 70,000 women born between 1925 and 1950 who were followed since 1990.
Passive smoking was assessed by the following question: When you were children, did you stay in a smoky room?
Patients were considered exposed if the answer was “yes” to a few hours a day.
In the smokers who had childhood passive exposure to smoke, the risk ratio was 1.73.
The risk ratio was 1.37 in active smokers not exposed to passive smoke during childhood.
“Our study highlights the importance of avoiding any tobacco environment in children, especially in those with a family history of RA,” said lead author Professor Raphaele Seror.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling in the joints – usually in the hands, feet and wrists.
The analysis also revealed that smoking worsened the effects of patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis of the spine.
“Smoking constitutes a major risk factor not only for disease susceptibility but also disease severity in patients with AS,” said Professor Servet Akar from Izmir Katip Celebi University Faculty of Medicine in Turkey.
“Rheumatologists should work hard to encourage their AS patients to quit smoking as this could have a major impact on future quality of life,” Prof Akar said.