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For Black Women, Cigarette Smoking Linked with Increased Lupus Risk, and Moderate Alcohol Consumption with Decreased Risk


August 9, 2018 ( Newswire) In the United States, systemic lupus erythematosus affects Black women more frequently than people of any other race and sex. In past studies of risk factors for lupus, which have mainly included Whites and Asians, cigarette smoking has been linked with increased lupus risk and moderate alcohol consumption with decreased risk. Now the largest study yet of lupus among Black women, which is published in the American College of Rheumatology's journal Arthritis Care & Research, has uncovered findings consistent with these previous studies in other populations.

For the research, investigators assessed data from the Black Women's Health Study, a long-term, prospective follow-up study of 59,000 Black women across the United States who were enrolled in 1995. A total of 127 new cases of lupus developed between 1995 and 2015.

The risk for lupus was higher by 45% among smokers compared with never smokers, although this did not reach statistical significance. The risk increased with increasing pack years of smoking. The risk of lupus was lower among women who consumed alcohol, with a statistically significant 57% decrease for women who drank 4 or more alcoholic drinks each week compared with never drinkers. Almost all women in the study drank moderately (less than 7 drinks per week).

"The current findings concerning smoking and alcohol consumption were similar to results from studies of White women in the Nurses' Health Study," said co–first author Medha Barbhaiya, MD, MPH, of the Hospital for Special Surgery, in New York City.

Although the mechanisms involved in the links seen in this and other studies are unknown, toxic substances from cigarette smoke have been associated with oxidative stress and autoantibody production, and they can directly damage proteins and DNA. Also, alcohol suppresses the synthesis of pro-inflammatory molecules. Furthermore, both cigarette smoking and alcohol intake may cause changes in the expression of genes involved in inflammation and autoimmunity.

"The identification of risk factors for lupus is especially important for Black women because of their high risk of lupus, and studies of other risk factors are in progress," said co–first author Yvette Cozier, DSc, of Boston University.

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Full Citation: "Relationship of cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption to incidence of systemic lupus erythematosus in the Black Women's Health Study." Yvette C. Cozier, Medha Barbhaiya, Nelsy Castro- Webb, Carolyn Conte, Sara K. Tedeschi, Cianna Leatherwood. Karen H. Costenbader, and Lynn Rosenberg. Arthritis Care & Research; Published Online: August 9, 2018 (DOI: 10.1002/acr.23703).

URL Upon Publication:

This study was supported by NIAMS AR327057 and a Scientist Development Award from the Rheumatology Research Foundation (Dr. Barbhaiya), as well as funding for the Black Women's Health Study from National Cancer Institute R01- CA058420, U01-CA164974.

Author Contact:

Gina DiGravio, Media Relations Manager at Boston University School of Medicine, at or +1 671- 638-8480.

About the Journal

Arthritis Care & Research is an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP), a division of the College. Arthritis Care & Research is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes both original research and review articles that promote excellence in the clinical practice of rheumatology. Relevant to the care of individuals with arthritis and related disorders, major topics are evidence-based practice studies, clinical problems, practice guidelines, health care economics, health care policy, educational, social, and public health issues, and future trends in rheumatology practice. The journal is published by Wiley on behalf of the ACR. For more information, please visit the journal home page at

About Wiley

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