Africa American cigarette smokers may increase risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

December 11, 2010 - The research, which is one of the largest studies to examine the impact of smoking on the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in an African-American population, builds on previous studies which found that cigarette smoking may be associated with an increased risk of RA. (Smoking Raises Arthritis Risk and Makes It Harder to Treat, Jennifer Davis,, 10/17/2009)

“[Rheumatoid arthritis] epidemiology has been largely understudied in the African-American population, Ted Mikuls, MD, MSPH, a lead author of the study, stated in a press release. “The aim of our study was to bridge the knowledge gap by determining whether smoking contributes to RA risk in African-Americans and define the extent to which this association is affected by genetic risk.”

PAPER: Associations of cigarette smoking with rheumatoid arthritis in African Americans, Ted R. Mikuls1, et al., Arthritis & Rheumatism 62(12):3560-3568, December 2010, abstract...

The study evaluated 605 participants with RA and 255 healthy controls from the Consortium for the Longitudinal Evaluations of African-Americans with Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (CLEAR) I and CLEAR II study groups. The investigators analyzed smoking status, cumulative smoking exposure and genetic risk factors. The risk of RA is reportedly more pronounced among individuals positive for the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE), according to the press release.

Dr. Mikuls stated: “We found a two-fold increase in RA risk among African-Americans who were heavy smokers, and this risk increased to more than fourfold in the presence of SE alleles. Our results suggest that roughly one in six new cases of RA occurring in African-Americans could be prevented through smoking cessation or by limiting cumulative smoking exposure to less than 10 pack-years.

African American: Statistics on Health Disparities Among African Americans Among African Americans, as with other U.S. populations, the prevalence of smoking declines as education level increases. In 2008, smoking rates were over 3.4 times higher among African American males over age 25 who had less than a high school education (34.5%) compared to those with a college education (10.1%). Smoking rates are also much higher in African American females over age 25 years old who have less than a high school education (23.2%) compared to those with a college education (9.5%) (African Americans, American Lung Association)

Reference: Cigarette smoking may increase RA risk in African-Americans,, 12/10/2010.