Skip to content
Second-hand smoke is linked to a higher risk of arthritis


June 9, 2021 – Second-hand smoke appears to be linked to a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis in people exposed to it during childhood and adulthood, according to a new study. Although rheumatoid arthritis is not a common disease, the findings may be particularly relevant for people already at increased risk due to a family history, according to study principal investigator Yann Nguyen, MD.

“Smoking is a risk factor for many diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis,” Nguyen told WebMD. Its findings, presented online on June 2 at the annual meeting of the European Alliance of Rheumatology Associations (EULAR), suggest that “passive smoking, in childhood or in adulthood, also increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and could trigger the disease at a younger age. . “

Second-hand smoke has already been linked to several lung diseases and cancers, adds Nguyen, from the University of Paris-Saclay in Villejuif and at Beaujon Hospital of the University of Paris in Clichy.

“We believe that it should be avoided as much as possible, especially in people who are at increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis, such as relatives of patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” Nguyen said.

The researchers relied on a French prospective cohort study designed to examine a / possible link between environmental factors and chronic disease.

The study began following 98,995 healthy French women in 1990. Most were around 49 years old.

A total of 698 women developed rheumatoid arthritis an average of 12 years after the start of the study.

Scientists have defined exposure to secondhand smoke in childhood as spending several hours a day in a smoky room.

Exposure to second-hand smoke in adulthood was defined as spending at least 1 hour per day in the presence of active adult smokers.

About 1 in 7 women (13.5%) reported having been exposed to cigarette smoke as a child, and just over half (53.6%) reported being exposed to smoking as an adult . Overall, 58.9% had secondary exposure in adulthood or in childhood, and 8.25% had both.

After accounting for the differences in women’s body mass index (BMI) and education level, the risk of rheumatoid arthritis was 1.4 times higher for women who had never smoked but had been exposed to second-hand smoke during childhood. Their risk was 1.3 times higher for women who had never smoked but who reported being regularly exposed to second-hand smoke in adulthood.