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Heavy cigarette smoking is strongly associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), particularly in patients without a family history of RA
  1. D Hutchinsona,
  2. L Shepstoneb,
  3. R Mootsa,
  4. J T Leard,
  5. M P Lynchc
  1. aRheumatology Research Group, University Hospital Aintree, bSchool of Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, cSt Helens and Whiston Hospital, Merseyside, dDepartment of Dermatology, Royal Infirmary, Manchester
  1. Dr D Hutchinson, Rheumatology Department, University Hospital Aintree, Longmore Lane, Liverpool, UK Hutch{at}


OBJECTIVES To investigate the potential relation between cumulative exposure to cigarette smoking in patients with or without rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and a positive family history of the disease.

METHODS 239 outpatient based patients with RA were compared with 239 controls matched for age, sex, and social class. A detailed smoking history was recorded and expressed as pack years smoked. Conditional logistic regression was used to calculate the association between RA and pack years smoked. The patients with RA were also interviewed about a family history of disease and recorded as positive if a first or second degree relative had RA. The smoking history at the time of the study of the patients with RA with or without a family history of the disease was compared directly with that of their respective controls. Patients with RA with or without a family history of the disease were also compared retrospectively for current smoking at the time of disease onset.

RESULTS An increasing association between increased pack years smoked and RA was found. There was a striking association between heavy cigarette smoking and RA. A history for 41–50 pack years smoked was associated with RA (odds ratio (OR) 13.54, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 2.89 to 63.38; p<0.001). The association between ever having smoked and RA was modest (OR 1.81, CI 1.22 to 2.19; p=0.002). Furthermore, cigarette smoking in the patients with RA without a positive family history of RA was more prevalent than in the patients with a positive family history of RA for ever having smoked (72% v 54%; p=0.006), the number of pack years smoked (median 25.0v 4.0; p<0.001), and for smoking at the time of disease onset (58% v 39%; p=0.003).

CONCLUSIONS Heavy cigarette smoking, but not smoking itself, is strongly associated with RA requiring hospital follow up and is markedly more prevalent in patients with RA without a family history of RA.

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • smoking
  • family history

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