Uranium miners exposed to silica dust have a higher risk of developing systemic sclerosis (SSc) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Sera of 1976 former uranium miners were analysed for autoantibodies typical of connective tissue disease. The frequency of some of these antibodies (anti-centromere, -topoisomerase I, -nucleolar, -dsDNA, -Ro/SSA, -La-SSB and U1-RNP antibodies) was significantly higher compared to a gender- and age-matched control group and was associated with the intensity of exposure as well as with clinical symptoms of SSc or SLE. It was also shown that SSc-associated autoantibodies may serve as an early indicator of disease development. Some differences in the autoantibody production between silica-dust-associated and idiopathic SLE/SSc were observed that might be caused by environmental factors in the population of uranium miners.

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