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Biomarkers Signal Women's Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

Blood sample screening may make risk counseling and early intervention possible

THURSDAY, Mar. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Elevated biomarkers of inflammation in the blood may help identify women with a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis years before symptoms appear, according to study findings published in the March issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Elizabeth W. Karlson, M.D., from the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, focused on cohorts from the Women's Health Study and the Nurses' Health Study. In this population, researchers identified 170 women who later developed rheumatoid arthritis, then as a control, the researchers matched each rheumatoid arthritis case with three women with similar attributes who did not develop rheumatoid arthritis. Using stored blood samples, the researchers tested for and compared their levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and sTNF-RII (a proxy for tumor necrosis factor α).

A pooled analysis of the cohorts found a significant association of sTNFRII with rheumatoid arthritis (relative risk, 2.0) and a modest association of IL-6 with rheumatoid arthritis (relative risk, 1.4). No association between hsCRP level and rheumatoid arthritis was discerned, the researchers report.

"These results could have implications with regard to screening for biomarkers of inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis risk that could be used for risk counseling or for targeted interventions to prevent rheumatoid arthritis," the authors write.

A study author reports a financial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, including companies that market drugs for rheumatoid arthritis.

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