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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2010 Nov;49(11):2172-80. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keq214. Epub 2010 Jul 31.

Occupational and environmental exposures and risk of systemic lupus erythematosus: silica, sunlight, solvents.

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Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services, Washington, DC, USA.



We examined occupational and non-occupational exposures in relation to risk of SLE in a case-control study conducted through the Canadian Network for Improved Outcomes in SLE (CaNIOS).


SLE cases (n = 258) were recruited from 11 rheumatology centres across Canada. Controls (without SLE, n = 263) were randomly selected from phone number listings and matched to cases by age, sex and area of residence. Data were collected using a structured telephone interview.


An association was seen with outdoor work in the 12 months preceding diagnosis [odds ratio (OR) 2.0; 95% CI 1.1, 3.8]; effect modification by sun reaction was suggested, with the strongest effect among people who reported reacting to midday sun with a blistering sunburn or a rash (OR 7.9; 95% CI 0.97, 64.7). Relatively strong but imprecise associations were seen with work as an artist working with paints, dyes or developing film (OR 3.9; 95% CI 1.3, 12.3) and work that included applying nail polish or nail applications (OR 10.2; 95% CI 1.3, 81.5). Patients were more likely than controls to report participation in pottery or ceramics work as a leisure activity, with an increased risk among individuals with a total frequency of at least 26 days (OR 2.1; 95% CI 1.1, 3.9). Analyses of potential respirable silica exposures suggested an exposure-response gradient (OR 1.0, 1.4. and 2.1 for zero, one and two or more sources of exposure, respectively; trend test P < 0.01).


This study supports the role of specific occupational and non-occupational exposures in the development of SLE.

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