Quitting Cigarettes Extends Life Expectancy of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Caitlyn Fitzpatrick

It’s been reiterated time and time again but the evidence holds true – smoking leads to worse health outcomes. However, smoking increases the risk of death in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s been reiterated time and time again but the evidence holds true — smoking leads to worse health outcomes. However, smoking increases the risk of death in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Data has shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher prevalence of smoking cigarettes than the general population. Multiple previous studies concluded that smoking increases the risk of death in this population. But will that risk decrease if the patients stop smoking? That’s what this recent study published in Arthritis Care & Research aimed to determine.

Led by Rebecca Joseph, research assistant at the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research at The University of Manchester, the team dove deeper into the association between smoking and rheumatoid arthritis. They assessed 5,677 people with rheumatoid arthritis (68% female; average age of 61.4). Out of the cohort, 40% were never smokers, 34% were former smokers, and 26% were current smokers.

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Current smokers had an increased risk of all-cause mortality with a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.98. Death from circulatory disease increased with a sub-distribution HR (SHR) of 1.96 and lung cancer by 23.2.

When it came to the answer they really wanted to know, the researchers found that sustaining from smoking did decrease the risk of all-cause mortality. Each year that smokers went without cigarettes resulted in a SHR decrease to 0.85 for former heavy smokers and 0.90 for light smokers.

“This research provides important evidence that the risk of early death starts to decline in patients who stop smoking, and continues year on year,” Deborah Symmons, MD, FFPH, FRCP, professor of rheumatology and musculoskeletal epidemiology at The University of Manchester, said in a news release.

The findings suggest that smoking suggestion programs could be an important tool for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

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