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Logo of oenvmedOccupational and Environmental MedicineVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Occup Environ Med. 2004 March; 61(3): 233–238.
PMCID: PMC1740725

Occupations and exposures in the work environment as determinants for rheumatoid arthritis


Background and Aims: Several occupational categories have been associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA); this study was conducted to further evaluate these associations.

Methods: Lifelong occupational history together with exposure experiences were collected through a postal questionnaire answered by 293 incident cases and 1346 population based referents. Occupational determinants were evaluated through stratified and multivariate analyses; pooled analyses with previously gathered data on 422 prevalent cases and 858 referents were also performed.

Results: In both materials, significantly increased logistic odds ratios (LORs) were seen for male conductors, freight and transport workers (LOR 17.8, 95% CI 1.5 to 207.8 and LOR 4.7, 95% CI 1.4 to 16.3, respectively), and farmers and farm workers (LOR 2.4, 95% CI 1.1 to 5.2, and LOR 2.2, 95% CI 1.3 to 3.5, respectively). Among women, increased LORs were seen in the separate and the pooled material for printmakers and process engravers (LOR 5.5, 95% CI 0.9 to 32.6, and LOR 3.0, 95% CI 0.9 to 10.3, respectively). Increased risks were seen in both materials for men exposed to asbestos (LOR 2.5, 95% CI 1.0 to 6.8, and LOR 1.6, 95% CI 0.8 to 3.3, respectively), and vibrations (LOR 2.0, 95% CI 0.9 to 4.4, and LOR 2.2, 95% CI 1.3 to 3.8, respectively). The risk for RA increased with increasing duration of exposure to vibrations and mineral dust, respectively.

Conclusions: There was evidence of a causal relation between exposures to vibrations and mineral dust and development of RA among men. Occupational factors seem to be aetiologically more important for men, and most occupations at risk involve multiple exposures. Several exposures associated with an increased risk for RA are frequent among farmers, and some of the occupations at risk include exposure to organic dust.

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