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How does the risk of rheumatoid arthritis affect women taking the pill?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the joints that lasts for several weeks. In Germany alone, around 800,000 people suffer from this disease. The researchers have now found that taking certain contraceptives can reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers at the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm found that oral contraceptives can protect against the development of rheumatoid arthritis. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases".
If women took the pill for more than seven years, the risk was reduced by 19 percent
If the participants took oral contraceptives for at least seven consecutive years, also known colloquially as birth control pills, this led to a reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by 19 percent, the experts explain.
Researchers found no significant link between breastfeeding and rheumatoid arthritis
The use of oral contraceptives offers women a protective effect against rheumatoid arthritis. In the past, breastfeeding in children has also been associated with a protective effect against rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers currently found no significant connection between breastfeeding and rheumatoid arthritis.
Women suffer from rheumatoid arthritis much more often
Rheumatoid arthritis is two to three times more common in women compared to men. This difference between the sexes could partly be explained by reproductive factors, the scientists speculate.
Doctors examined more than 6,500 women for their study
For their study, the researchers examined the data from over 2,500 women with rheumatoid arthritis. For comparison, 4,100 women without the disease who were the same age were also examined.
Blood of the participants was tested for ACPA antibodies
The doctors took blood samples from all participants to look for so-called ACPA antibodies, which are strongly associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Women were also asked about their contraceptive techniques and their reproductive history. Nine out of ten people who tested positive for ACPA antibodies suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. The presence of these antibodies can therefore indicate a serious illness, the scientists explain.
Effects of taking the pill on the risk of rheumatoid arthritis
The results of the study indicate that women who have used an oral contraceptive in the past are generally less at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to women who have never taken the pill. The risk was reduced by 15 percent if women were currently taking oral contraceptives. When women used oral contraceptives in the past, the risk was reduced by 13 percent, the authors explain. If the women took the pill for more than seven years, which was the average duration of use of the participants during the study, this could be associated with a 19 percent reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. (as)