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Prevalence of Autoimmunity May Be on the Rise

Reasons for increasing prevalence among broad subgroups from 1988 to 2012 remain unclear

THURSDAY, April 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) — The prevalence of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) in the United States has increased considerably between 1988 and 2012, according to a study published online April 7 in Arthritis & Rheumatology.

Gregg E. Dinse, Sc.D., from Social & Scientific Systems in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues investigated whether the prevalence of ANA changed during a recent 25-year span in the United States using data from 14,211 participants ≥12 years old from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988 to 1991, 1999 to 2004, and 2011 to 2012).

The researchers found that the prevalence of ANA was 11 percent in 1988 to 1991, 11.5 percent in 1999 to 2004, and 15.9 percent in 2011 to 2012. These findings correspond to 22, 27, and 41 million affected individuals, respectively, during the study period. ANA prevalence rose steeply among adolescents (aged 12 to 19 years) compared with the first time period (odds ratios: 1999 to 2004, 2.02; 2011 to 2012, 2.88). Increases in ANA prevalence were seen among both sexes (especially males), older adults (ages ≥50 years), and non-Hispanic whites. Concurrent trends in obesity/overweight, smoking, or drinking did not explain these increases.

“The reasons for the increasing prevalence of ANA, which were most pronounced in adolescents, males, and non-Hispanic whites, remain unclear,” a coauthor said in a statement. “They are concerning, however, as they may herald an increase in autoimmune disorders, and emphasize the need for additional studies to determine the driving forces underlying these findings and to enable the development of possible preventative measures.”

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