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Women who smoke have nearly twice the risk of developing Graves' hyperthyroidism than nonsmokers

Women who smoke increase their risk of developing Graves' hyperthyroidism, concludes a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00063). Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system overstimulates the thyroid gland, causing hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of Graves' hyperthyroidism range from insomnia, irritability, and weight loss to rapid heart beat and muscle weakness.

Ingrid A. Holm, M.D., M.P.H., of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues studied the association between lifestyle factors, including smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and body mass index, and Graves' hyperthyroidism among women aged 25 to 42, who participated in the Nurses' Health Study II. Over a 12-year period, the incidence of Graves' hyper-thyroidism was 4.6 per 1,000 women.

Women who smoked had nearly twice the odds of developing Graves' hyperthyroidism and those who smoked 25 or more cigarettes daily had nearly three times the odds. Past smokers were 27-percent more likely to develop the condition. The mechanism by which smoking increases risk of developing hyperthyroidism is not known. However, several chemicals in cigarette tobacco appear to affect thyroid hormone secretion and synthesis, and smoking also affects the immune system.

See "Smoking and other lifestyle factors and the risk of Graves' hyperthyroidism," by Dr. Holm, JoAnn E. Manson, M.D., Dr.P.H., Karin B. Michels, Sc.D., M.P.H., and others, in the July 25, 2005, Archives of Internal Medicine 165, pp. 1606-1611.

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