A new study reveals that African-Americans who smoke cigarettes have a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disease that affects joints and causes pain, swelling and redness.
Smoking and RA are also connected by genetics; individuals that are positive with the HLA-DRB1 eptiope have a higher risk of developing the disease as well. The findings of these studies are published in the December issue of Arthrities & Rheumatism, a journal published on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).
“RA epidemiology has been largely understudied in the African American population,” Ted Mikuls, MD, MSPH, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and lead study author, said. “The aim of our study was to bridge the knowledge gap by determining whether smoking contributes to RA risk in African Americans and define the extent to which this association is affected by genetic risk.”
The ACR estimates that 1.3 million Americans are diagnosed with RA and 75% of those that are diagnosed are women. Previous studies have shown a connection between the two, however, this study is the largest to date that examines the impact of smoking on the RA risk for African-Americans. In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that within the African-American population, 26 percent of men and 17 percent of women over the age of 18 smoked.
What can be done to reduce the risks? Stop smoking or tone it down.
“Our results suggest that roughly one in six new cases of RA occurring in African Americans could be prevented through smoking cessation or by limiting cumulative smoking exposure to less than 10 pack-years,” Dr. Mikuls said.