Objectives: To study the influence of female hormonal factors on the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in relation to the human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1 shared epitope (SE), the protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTPN22) 1858T variant, anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs), and immunoglobulin (Ig)M-rheumatoid factor (IgM-RF).
Methods: A case-control study (1:4) was nested within the Medical Biobank of northern Sweden. Females who had subsequently developed RA (n = 70), median of 2.7 years before the onset of symptoms, and matched controls (n = 280) were identified from among the blood donors. A questionnaire concerning previous exposures until disease onset, including hormonal and reproductive factors, and smoking habits was distributed.
Results: Breastfeeding was significantly associated with the development of RA [odds ratio (OR) 4.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.43-15.8]. Increasing time of breastfeeding increased the risk of RA (OR 5.7, 95% CI 1.83-17.95) for breastfeeding ≥ 17 months. In a multiple logistic regression analysis, increasing time of breastfeeding (OR 9.5, 95% CI 2.14-42.43 for ≥ 17 months), seropositivity for ACPAs (OR 19.5, 95% CI 4.47-84.81), and carriage of the PTPN22 1858T variant (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.36-7.54) remained significant predictors of RA. Users of oral contraceptives (OC) for ≥ 7 years had a decreased risk for development of RA (OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.15-0.93).
Conclusions: A longer duration of breastfeeding increased the risk of developing RA, especially among individuals seropositive for ACPA or IgM-RF or carrying the PTPN22 1858T variant. Use of OC for ≥ 7 years was associated with a decreased risk.