Smoking linked to development of systemic lupus erythematosus

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – While previous epidemiologic studies have yielded conflicting results, findings from a recent case-control study indicate that smoking is, in fact, a risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Dr. Wilmer L. Sibbitt, Jr. and colleagues, from the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, compared the smoking and drinking habits of 125 patients with SLE to those of 125 matched subjects without SLE. To minimize possible bias from behaviors induced by disease onset, the researchers focused on patients' habits prior to SLE diagnosis.

Smokers and ex-smokers were 6.69 and 3.62 times more likely, respectively, to develop SLE than non-smokers. Furthermore, family history and education did not alter the link between smoking and SLE development.

Alcohol consumption appeared to have no effect on the SLE risk, the authors note in the November issue of The Journal of Rheumatology.

The current findings suggest that individuals at risk for SLE, primarily those with a family history, should avoid tobacco exposure, the researchers state. The data "also indicate that further studies regarding the specific role of tobacco smoke and associated chemical factors in the induction and modulation of autoimmunity are required," they add.

J Rheumatol 2001;28:2449-2453.

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