Monday, June 9, 2008

Occupational Hazard?

I missed reading this article in WebMD last fall. I'm glad that I found it. 

It cites a study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism, October 2007; vol. 56: online edition, by Laura S. Gold, doctoral candidate in epidemiology, University of Washington at Seattle, and Michael Lockshin, MD, professor of medicine and obstetrics-gynecology, Weill-Cornell Medical College, New York City.

The study explores the relationship between occupations and autoimmune disease related deaths. Since I grew up on a farm and am a nurse, I was interested to read the results. 

The findings do not prove a link between any single occupation and autoimmune disease. But they do offer intriguing clues that could serve as a jumping off point for future research, researcher Laura Gold tells WebMD.

In farming, for example, the increase in risk was seen among farmers who worked primarily with crops, but not among those worked mostly with livestock.

“We can’t explain this,” she says. “We really need to look at questions like this more closely in future studies that include more detailed occupational history.”In the newly published study, farmers and secondary school teachers were each found to have a 30% increased risk for dying from systemic autoimmune diseases.

Bank tellers, special education teachers, and mining machine operators were among those also at increased risk.

Firefighters had twice the risk of death from scleroderma compared with other occupations, but their overall risk of dying from systemic autoimmune diseases was not increased.

Younger age, being female, and being African-American were all associated with a greater risk of dying of lupus, and white race and male sex were associated with a greater likelihood of dying from rheumatoid arthritis.

While some occupations involving exposure to the public -- such as teaching and nursing -- were associated with an increased risk of dying from a systemic autoimmune disease, others -- such as restaurant server and child care worker -- were not.

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