New research has suggested that passive exposure to tobacco during childhood could increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in later life.
The study, published in Rheumatology, investigated the link between smoking status, including childhood and adult passive exposure, and the risk of incident RA among women from the French E3N [Etude Epidémiologique auprès de femmes de la Mutuelle Générale de l’Education Nationale (MGEN)] cohort.
Among 71,248 women, 371 incident RA cases were confirmed. The authors found ever smokers who also had childhood passive smoking exposure had a higher risk of arthritis than smokers not exposed as children. The authors also found that RA began earlier in smokers exposed to childhood passive smoking.
Among never-smokers, passive smoking exposure during childhood was associated with a borderline increased risk of RA, with the magnitude of the increase being similar to that associated with regular adulthood smoking.
The authors said the results highlight the importance of protecting children from any environmental tobacco smoke exposure, especially in those with a family history of RA. “If the current regulation of smoking has certainly reduced exposure in public places, passive exposure at home is under the responsibility of parents that must be aware of such a risk,” they said.