Study suggests prolonged preventive effect of breastfeeding and links irregular menstrual cycles to increased risk of disease
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an inflammatory disease of the immune system, is between two and four times more likely to strike women than men. Among women, RA is more likely to develop when reproductive hormonal levels are changing, such as in the first few months following a pregnancy and around the time of menopause. Although previous researchers have studied this topic, the relationship between hormones and the risk of developing RA remains unclear.
Seeking more conclusive evidence, a team of researchers led by Elizabeth Karlson, M.D. at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston drew on a large sample – 121,700 women – to explore the contribution of hormonal factors occurring prior to the onset of RA and the impact of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy on the risk of disease. Their findings, published in the November 2004 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, strongly support the lasting benefits of breastfeeding in protecting against the disease. Whats more, the researchers identified a new risk factor for RA: irregular menstrual cycles.
David Greenberg | EurekAlert!
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