To examine the influence of solar cycle and geomagnetic effects on the incidence of giant cell arteritis (GCA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
We used data from patients with GCA (1950–2004) and RA (1955–2007) obtained from population-based cohorts. Yearly trends in age-adjusted and sex-adjusted incidence were correlated with the F10.7 index (solar radiation at 10.7 cm wavelength, a proxy for the solar extreme ultraviolet radiation) and AL index (a proxy for the westward auroral electrojet and a measure of geomagnetic activity). Fourier analysis was performed on AL, F10.7, and GCA and RA incidence rates.
The correlation of GCA incidence with AL is highly significant: GCA incidence peaks 0–1 year after the AL reaches its minimum (ie, auroral electrojet reaches a maximum). The correlation of RA incidence with AL is also highly significant. RA incidence rates are lowest 5–7 years after AL reaches maximum. AL, GCA and RA incidence power spectra are similar: they have a main peak (periodicity) at about 10 years and a minor peak at 4–5 years. However, the RA incidence power spectrum main peak is broader (8–11 years), which partly explains the lower correlation between RA onset and AL. The auroral electrojets may be linked to the decline of RA incidence more strongly than the onset of RA. The incidences of RA and GCA are aligned in geomagnetic latitude.
AL and the incidences of GCA and RA all have a major periodicity of about 10 years and a secondary periodicity at 4–5 years. Geomagnetic activity may explain the temporal and spatial variations, including east-west skewness in geographic coordinates, in GCA and RA incidence, although the mechanism is unknown. The link with solar, geospace and atmospheric parameters need to be investigated. These novel findings warrant examination in other populations and with other autoimmune diseases.