Low birth weight has been proposed as a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The twin-control study design provides an opportunity to investigate the significance of potential prenatal determinants for adult morbidity by accounting for maternal characteristics and early environmental and genetic factors. We investigated the association between birth weight and RA in a sample of 42 twin pairs discordant for rheumatoid arthritis in which valid information on birth weight, birth length, and order was available from midwife records. Difference plot and conditional logistic regression were used to investigate the relationship between RA and birth weight or birth order adjusting for birth length and sex. The intra-pairwise birth weight differences, i.e., RA twin minus co-twin, ranged from -750 to 1,100 g, mean 78 g (95 % CI -13 to 70), 146 g (95 % CI (-36 to 329) in monozygotic, 32 g (95 % CI -90 to 154) in dizygotic, same sex and 69 g (95 % CI -122 to 260) in dizygotic, opposite sex twin pairs. The odds ratio for birth weight as risk factor for RA was 1.00 (95 % CI 0.997-1.003) when adjusting for birth length, birth order, and sex, irrespective of ACPA status. The odds ratio for developing RA as first born twin was 2.33 (95 % CI 0.97-5.60) when adjusting for birth length, birth weight, and sex, irrespective of ACPA status. In this twin-control study, birth weight was not associated with the development of RA in adult life. Being born first may predispose to RA.
Rheumatology International, 2014, Vol 34, Issue 4, p. 523-8