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Objectives: Adult obesity may be positively associated with risks of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but associations with early life body size are unknown. We examined whether birthweight, childhood body mass index (BMI), height, and changes in BMI and height were associated with risks of adult RA. Method: A cohort of 346 602 children (171 127 girls) from the Copenhagen School Health Records Register, born in 1930–1996, with measured weights and heights from 7 to 13 years of age, were included. Information on RA, including serological status, came from national registers from 1977 to 2017. Cox regressions were performed. Results: During a median of 35.1 years of observation time per person, 4991 individuals (3565 women) were registered with RA. Among girls, per BMI z-score, risks of RA and seropositive RA increased by 4–9% and 6–10%, respectively. Girls with overweight had higher risks of RA than girls without overweight. Girls who became overweight by 13 years of age had increased risks of RA compared to girls without overweight at 7 or 13 years (hazard ratio = 1.40, 95% confidence interval 1.19–1.66). For boys, associations between BMI and RA (including seropositive RA) were not statistically significant. Height was not associated with RA (any type) in girls. Taller boys had higher risks of RA, especially seropositive RA. Birthweight was not associated with RA. Conclusions: Among women, childhood adiposity was associated with increased risks of RA. Among men, childhood height was positively associated with risks of RA. These findings support the hypothesis that early life factors may be important in the aetiology of RA.

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Journal article


Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology

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