Paris, France, Friday 13 June 2008: New data presented today at EULAR 2008, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Paris, France, show that intake of oily fish is associated with a reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), whereas psychosocial work stress and smoking can increase the risk of developing the condition. The findings, all taken from a large population-based case-control study in Sweden called EIRA (Epidemiological Investigation of Rheumatoid Arthritis), shed light on the important role of environmental and social factors in the development of RA.
Intake of Oily Fish
For the first time, the intake of oily fish has been demonstrated to have a protective effect against the development of RA, reducing an individual's risk by 20-30%. Studying 1,899 subjects with a confirmed diagnosis of RA (fulfilling ACR criteria) and 2,145 controls (randomly selected and matched for age, sex and residential area), investigators concluded that the odds ratio (OR) for developing RA was 0.8 (0.7-1.0) for those who consumed oily fish 1-7 times per week or 1-3 times per month, compared with those who never, or seldom consumed oily fish. Interestingly, no significant association with RA risk was observed for consumption of fish oil supplements.
Tobacco smoking is an established risk factor for RA, but the investigators found that there is a dose dependency for the level of smoking (i.e. the number of cigarettes smoked across a given period) on the odds ratio of developing anti-citrulline (anti-CCP) positive RA. The highest odds ratios were seen in those carrying a risk variant of the susceptibility gene PTPN22. In the study, 1,240 cases and 798 controls were identified as smokers from a total group of 1,419 cases and 1,674 controls via an extensive questionnaire regarding lifestyle factors, including smoking habits.
These subjects were then classified into three
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European League Against Rheumatism