Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Are There New Clues?
A Look at the Insecticide Study from ACR
Why do some people get Rheumatoid Arthritis? No one has the entire answer. However, a little piece to the puzzle may have been confirmed last week at the American College of Rheumatology annual Scientific Meeting in Philadelphia. Did you see the news on the insecticide study?
Gardening is a risk for RA?
Personal insecticide use was associated with an increased risk of what the study called Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases (Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus / SLE). The study looked at post-menopausal women (why do they do these studies on older women, as if they are the typical RA’er?) Even after allowing for other known risks, such as genetic predisposition and history of cigarette smoking, insecticide use was found to be highly correlated with RA and Lupus. The closer the women worked with the household insecticides (i.e.: mixing them, handling them personally), the more likely they were to have RA or Lupus. And the more time they spent with the chemicals, the stronger the connection to ARD (Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus).
Genes are still a big risk
Scientists estimate that genetic factors account for about 50% of the risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis. What is the rest of the puzzle? What else puts us in danger of developing RA?
Other pieces to the RA trigger puzzle
Earlier this year, I read reports of the study showing an association between exposure to traffic pollution and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I heard some RA’ers ridicule the study as a waste of money since none of us believes that we got sick because of our proximity to I-95. But, I remember saying, “Hey I wonder if that might be related to the smoking studies since smoking is akin to pollution…”
There have been several studies on smoking and Rheumatoid Arthritis (or Psoriatic Arthritis). One study found that for women who have the genes associated with RA, smoking made them 21 times more likely to have anti-CCP antibodies, which are almost always associated with actual Rheumatoid Arthritis.
It seems to me that the smoking studies, the insecticide study, and the traffic study all point to the same thing. For some people, exposure to certain environmental factors contributes to the likelihood of RA. I am not a scientist, but since my kids have my genes, I’m telling them to take precautions.
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