Objective: To examine a range of demographic, social, and clinical risk factors for the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Population-based case-control study in Norfolk, England, involving adult patients, ages 18-70, with an inflammatory polyarthritis of <12 months' duration who were recruited from the Norfolk Arthritis Register. Controls, matched for sex and date of birth, were selected from the primary care register of the Norwich Health Authority. Both cases and controls completed identical self-administered questionnaires. Matched analysis of the 165 case-control sets was conducted for the whole group and for the subset in which the cases satisfied the 1987 American College of Rheumatology criteria for RA.
Results: The controls were of higher socioeconomic status than the cases. This was probably due to response bias. Having a body mass index > or =30 was associated with an adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 3.74 for developing RA (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 1.14-12.27). RA was also associated with a history of blood transfusion (OR 4.83, 95% CI 1.29-18.07). Even after correcting for social class, a history of having ever smoked was associated with a higher risk of developing RA (OR 1.66, 95% CI 0.95-3.06). There was no difference between cases and controls in previous exposure to childhood infections, certain surgical procedures, or reproductive history variables.
Conclusion: RA has a number of potential environmental triggers, including smoking, obesity, and blood transfusion.