Think cutting back on your smoking cuts your health risk? Think again. New research shows smoking even a small number of cigarettes a day over a period of years greatly boosts the odds of developing rheumatoid arthritis, not to mention a host of other health problems.
The findings, published in the BioMed Central journal Arthritis Research & Therapy, offer fresh evidence that quitting is the best policy, when it comes to tobacco. The study, conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, also found that the risk decreases after giving up smoking but, compared to people who have never smoked, is still elevated 15 years after quitting tobocca.
“Stopping smoking is important for many health reasons, including the increased risk of [rheumatoid arthritis] for smokers,” said Daniela Di Giuseppe, who led the study. “But the clearly increased risk of developing RA, even many years after giving up, is another reason to stop smoking as soon as possible, and highlight[s] the importance of persuading women not to start at all.”
For the study, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital analyzed the medical records of 34,000 women, aged 54-89 years, 219 of which had arthritis. Results of the study showed that even light smoking was associated with an increased risk of RA; smoking one to seven cigarettes a day more than doubled the risk.
When the team compared people who had never smoked to women who used tobacco for up to 25 years, they found that the risk also increased with length of smoking.
Stopping smoking did decrease chances of developing arthritis, by one-third up to 15 years after quitting. But former smokers were still more prone to developing arthritis than those who never smoked even after that time, the results showed.
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