Introduction: The aim of this study was to investigate the association between exposure to cosmetics, often containing mineral oil, and the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The study was performed against the background that occupational exposure to mineral oil has recently been shown to be associated with an increased risk for RA in man, and that injection of or percutaneous exposure to mineral-oil-containing cosmetics can induce arthritis in certain rat strains.
Methods: A population-based case-control study of incident cases of RA was performed among the population aged 18 to 70 years in a defined area of Sweden during May 1996 to December 2003. A case was defined as an individual from the study base, who received for the first time a diagnosis of RA according to the 1987 American College of Rheumatology criteria. Controls were randomly selected from the study base with consideration taken for age, gender and residential area. Cases (n = 1,419) and controls (n = 1,674) answered an extensive questionnaire regarding environmental and lifestyle factors including habits of cosmetic usage. The relative risk of developing RA was calculated for subjects with different cosmetic usage compared with subjects with low or no usage. Analysis was also performed stratifying the cases for presence/absence of rheumatoid factor and antibodies to citrulline-containing peptides.
Results: The relative risks of developing RA associated with use of cosmetics were all close to one, both for women and men, for different exposure categories, and in relation to different subgroups of RA.
Conclusion: This study does not support the hypothesis that ordinary usage of common cosmetics as body lotions, skin creams, and ointments, often containing mineral oil, increase the risk for RA in the population in general. We cannot exclude, however, that these cosmetics can contribute to arthritis in individuals carrying certain genotypes or simultaneously being exposed to other arthritis-inducing environmental agents.