A new study has found cigarette smoking and other environmental pollutants may increase the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis, as well as cause the disease to be more severe in those who do get it.
Scientists have known for decades that people with a particular gene have an increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis. More recent studies have found that smoking further increases the likelihood that people with that gene will get rheumatoid arthritis and that it will be more severe.
More than a quarter of adults in West Virginia smoke, according to America’s Health Rankings.
The new study, published this week by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at the relationship between the gene and environmental pollutants such as smoking, and living near urban areas or highways.
Researchers think that a chemical called dioxin may be to blame. Dioxins can be found both in cigarettes and air pollution. Researchers think the chemical may activate the gene associated with rheumatoid arthritis and facilitate the bone destruction found in severe rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.