Contraceptive pill may lower the risk of rheumatoid arthritis

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the pill, contraceptive pill, rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis digest magazineRegular use of the contraceptive pill may lower the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

The research adds to evidence suggesting that hormonal and reproductive factors may explain why women are at greater risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than men.

Data from 2,809 women who had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis was compared with data from 5,312 women without the disease. The researchers found that:

  • Women who had used an oral contraceptive at any time had a lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than those who had never done so;
  • The risk was 15% lower in current users of the pill and 13% lower in past users;
  • The association was significant for women who tested positive for anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA), a marker often associated with more serious cases of rheumatoid arthritis;
  • The link remained after taking account tobacco and alcohol consumption;
  • Using the pill for more than seven years was associated with a 19% lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, regardless of whether women tested positive or negative for ACPA.

Prof David Isenberg from Arthritis Research UK comments:

“This is a really interesting study that will help us to further understand some of these factors, especially the role of hormones. However, what this study doesn’t tell us is exactly how the oral contraceptive pill can help to lower the risk of developing the condition. If you are worried about symptoms you have or about the risk factors of arthritis, please speak to your GP or rheumatologist.”

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