Light smoking can make women more than twice as likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as those who have never smoked a cigarette, according to new research.
A study carried out by a team of researchers in Sweden found that women who have between one and seven cigarettes a day are 2.3% more susceptible to developing the disease, and the risk is still twice as great in women who smoked when they were younger but have managed to stop for 15 years.
The research discovered that 219 out of the 34,101 women between the ages of 54 and 89 involved in the study suffered from RA, a disease that attacks the joints of the body and is caused by the immune system.
At its worst, RA can cause intense pain and disable sufferers, leading them to lose mobility and function of various tissues and organs in the body. However it manly affects the parts of the body known as synovial joints. It should not be confused with osteoarthritis, as this condition also affects the joints but is caused by wear and tear or injury.
Risks for women from smoking
The study, which has been made public in the Arthritis Research & Therapy online journal, suggests that the likelihood of having RA decreases over time after giving up tobacco, but the risk also increases depending on how long a woman has been smoking.
For example, a woman who has smoked for 25 years is 1.6 more times likely to develop RA than someone who has been smoking for just a year. Women who have managed to quit smoking and have not had a cigarette for 15 years were found to be 30% less likely to develop RA than women who managed to kick the habit a year ago.
RA is just one of many risks that are linked to tobacco, according to lead researcher Daniela Di Giuseppe, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, but she said not only does it provide another compelling reason for women to stop smoking, it also shows how important it is for them to not take it up in the first place.
Copyright Press Association 2013