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21-04-2016 | Rheumatoid arthritis | Review | Article

Family history of rheumatoid arthritis: an old concept with new developments

Thomas Frisell, Saedis Saevarsdottir, Johan Askling


Family history of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a proxy for an individual's genetic and, in part, environmental risk of developing RA, and is a well-recognized predictor of disease onset. Although family history of RA is an old concept, the degree of familial aggregation of RA, whether it differs by age, sex, or serology, and what value it has for clinical decisions once a diagnosis of RA has been made remain unclear. New data have been emerging in parallel to substantial progress made in genetic association studies. In this Review, we describe the various ways that familial aggregation has been measured, and how the findings from these studies, whether they are based on twins, cohorts of first-degree relatives, or genetic data, correspond to each other and aid understanding of the aetiology of RA. In addition, we review the potential usefulness of family history of RA from a clinical point of view, demonstrating that, in the era of big data and genomics, family history still has a role in directing clinical decision-making and research.

Nat Rev Rheumatol 2016;12:335–343. doi:10.1038/nrrheum.2016.52


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