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Smoking Linked to Higher Multiple Sclerosis Risk

Last Updated: September 02, 2009.

Smokers may face a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis, but the risk increase may not be due to nicotine, according to research published in the Sept. 1 issue of Neurology.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Smokers may face a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis, but the risk increase may not be due to nicotine, according to research published in the Sept. 1 issue of Neurology.

Anna K. Hedstrom, M.D., of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues analyzed data from 902 individuals diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and 1,855 controls. Subjects answered questionnaires about current and past smoking, as well as other factors; cases received the questionnaires shortly after diagnosis. Data analyses were adjusted for sex, age and residential area.

The researchers found that, in both men and women, having ever smoked was associated with a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis (odds ratios, 1.4 for women and 1.8 for men) compared to having never smoked. The researchers found evidence of a dose-response correlation between the cumulative dose of smoking and the risk of developing the disease. However, the use of Swedish snuff was not linked to a higher risk.

"The molecular pathways responsible for the observed association between smoking and multiple sclerosis are not yet known, but a variety of mechanisms have been suggested to explain the association. Cigarette smoke elevates peripheral blood leukocyte counts and is associated with important markers of inflammation in autoimmune disease such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. Abnormalities in T-cell function and impairment of both humoral and cell-mediated immunity have been observed in smokers," the authors write.

Several co-authors reported financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

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