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Occupational inorganic dust exposure tied to gout risk

Elaine Soliven
05 Jul 2019

Occupational exposure to inorganic dust, particularly asbestos, silica, and coal, was associated with an increased risk of developing gout, according to a study presented at EULAR 2019.

Using data from the Western Swedish Health Care Region database between 2006 and 2012, researchers conducted a population-based study comparing 6,120 individuals diagnosed with gout with 25,074 population controls without gout. Each gout case was matched with up to five controls based on their age, sex, and place of residence. [EULAR 2019, abstract OP0054]

In a univariate analysis, occupational exposure to inorganic dust was significantly associated with an increased risk of gout (odds ratio [OR], 1.10, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.04–1.17).

Both univariate and multivariate analyses showed that alcohol abuse (OR, 2.37 and 2.26, respectively) and obesity (OR, 3.81 and 3.75, respectively) were strongly associated with an increased risk of gout. These findings were expected, as these were already known factors for gout, said lead author Dr Valgerdur Sigurdardottir from the Department of Rheumatology and Inflammation Research at the University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden.

After adjusting for alcohol abuse and obesity, women who were exposed to inorganic dust had a higher risk of gout than men (OR, 1.27, 95 percent CI, 1.07–1.51 vs OR, 1.03, 95 percent CI, 0.97–1.11). “The relationship was attenuated in men but remained in women,” Sigurdardottir said.

A previous study reported that cleaners, maintenance staff, plumbers, electricians, car fitters, welders, and machinery mechanics may be exposed to a high level of inorganic dust, mainly asbestos and silica. [Lancet 1997;349:1311-1315]

Moreover, previous studies have shown that occupational exposure to inorganic dust was associated with an increased risk of inflammatory rheumatic diseases, particularly rheumatoid arthritis. [Am J Med 2015;128:1094-1101; Ann Rheum Dis 2010;69:1072-1076]

“This is the first-time [that] occupational exposure to inorganic dust has been shown to be associated with the development of gout,” said Sigurdardottir, suggesting that exposure to inorganic dust may have previously been an “unknown risk factor for gout”.

“Further study is needed to understand the dangers of [occupational] exposure to inorganic dust in relation to gout and other inflammatory rheumatic diseases,” she noted.

“Gout is a disabling disease that is very common across Europe,” said Professor Thomas Dörner, EULAR Chairperson of the Scientific Programme Committee. “Identification of risk factors is very important as it allows us to recognize those susceptible to developing the disease and implement early prevention and management strategies.”

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