Certain Occupations Associated With an Increased Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Occupations related to potential noxious airborne agents are related to an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to recent research.

Occupations related to potential noxious airborne agents are related to an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to recent research.

In a study published in Arthritis Care & Research, researchers investigated whether environmental factors, including a person’s occupation, play a role in the development of RA. The researchers assessed 3522 cases and 5580 controls from the Swedish population-based EIRA case-control study. Each participant completed a questionnaire—intended to reveal information on their work history and lifestyle patterns—and gave a blood sample.

From this information, the scientists were able to identify the odds ratio of RA, associated with the patient’s last occupation. Additional information was collected, such as cigarette smoking, alcohol use, body mass index (BMI), and education data.

“Several environmental and lifestyle factors are involved in the development of RA. A well-established risk factor is smoking, which is believed to elicit citrullination of proteins in the lungs, and contribute to trigger autoimmunity to the citrullinated proteins,” the study noted. “It is hypothesized that a similar disease mechanism could apply to other airborne exposures.”

The researchers found that among men, bricklayers and concrete workers, material handling operators, and electrical and electronic workers, had a greater risk of ACPA+ (anti-citrullinated protein antibodies) RA. Bricklayers, concrete workers, and electrical and electronic workers, also had an increased risk of ACPA- RA. Among women, assistant nurses and attendants had a moderately increased risk of ACPA+ RA, while no occupations were found to be associated to ACPA- RA for women.

“Previous studies have not considered these lifestyle-related risk factors to the same extent. Our findings therefore indicate that work-related factors, such as airborne harmful exposures, may contribute to disease development,” Anna Ilar, MSc, one of the authors of the study said in a statement. “It is important that findings on preventable risk factors are spread to employees, employers, and decision-makers in order to prevent disease by reducing or eliminating known risk factors.”