GPs should encourage smoking cessation as it reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, a new study has found.
Researchers investigated the impact of smoking cessation on developing rheumatoid arthritis, and found quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing the condition.
This risk is significantly reduced when cessation is sustained, the research team found.
The study – carried out by researchers in Boston and New York and published by Arthritis Care and Research – analysed data from around 120,000 US women, who signed up to a health survey and were followed between 1976 and 2015.
The analysis found women who had smoked in the past were 36% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who had never smoked, rising to 46% in current smokers.
Those who smoked more than 25 cigarettes a day were also 92% more likely to develop seropositive rheumatoid arthritis in particular, the study said.
The risk decreased with time since quitting smoking, with those who quit between zero and five years ago 57% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than never smokers. This figure fell to 37% in those who quit 10 to 20 years ago.
There was no significant association between seronegative rheumatoid arthritis and both smoking intensity and years since quitting, the study said.
The researchers said the findings demonstrate for the first time that smoking cessation could delay the onset of seropositive rheumatoid arthritis.
They wrote: ‘While smoking cessation may not decrease rheumatoid arthritis risk to the level of a never smoker, our findings provide evidence that a behaviour change of smoking cessation may delay or even prevent the onset of seropositive rheumatoid arthritis.
‘Our study findings provide evidence that a behaviour change of sustained smoking cessation may reduce seropositive rheumatoid arthritis risk.’