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April 7th, 2010
04:00 PM ET

Smoking could raise MS risk in some

By Georgiann Caruso
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Smoking could raise the risk of developing multiple sclerosis  in people with three specific other risk factors, researchers report in the April 7 online edition of the journal Neurology.

Three geographically different studies looked at 442 people with MS and 865 without the disease. Researchers studied the correlation between MS and whether people had or hadn’t smoked; the Epstein-Barr virus;  and the immune-system gene HLA-DR15. It was the first research to examine how the risk factors interact together.

Much remains unknown about the chronic neurological disease: The cause, how to cure it and how to prevent it.  MS  strikes people of every race and age, an estimated 400,000 Americans and over 2 million people worldwide.

A  2003 study also in Neurology,  also linked smoking to MS. In addition, researchers have long known that a genetic component plays a role in causing the disease.   A team of researchers led by Claire Simon, with Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, set out to study how smoking may interact with these other risk factors.

"We just really need to be thoughtful about how we think these factors relate to each other or interact in a biological sense for a person to go from having a normal-functioning immune system to one resulting in MS," said Simon.

The findings of how these factors interact may leave behind clues as to why some people develop MS and others don't. This preliminary study showed that people with a higher measurement of antibody to EBV and a history of smoking were more likely to have MS, said  Dr. Patricia O'Looney, vice president of Biomedical Research for the National MS Society.

"We really don't know what that really means until we do further investigation," O'Looney said. She says understanding MS is important so that the disease might someday be prevented.

"For people with MS, it may not just be one trigger, it may be different triggers in different people," O'Looney said. Those triggers may impact their individual course of disease, and why some people are more severely afflicted than others.

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. WILLIAM

    To put it plainly life is a risk. Even the most healthiest of people can have issues, to think that unhealthy habits are a persons downfall is ludicrous. Enjoy today, for tomorrow may not come. Enjoy life, it is a gift given to each one of us.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Stephen

    Yes even the most healthiest people can get some terrible disease like this. But the point of this study and ones like it is to find ways we can reduce our chances. That's why we brush our teeth, take showers, wash our hands, etc. Not smoking will soon join that list of no-brainer ways to reduce the chances of several illnesses.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Smith360

    Studies have shown that smoking longer than 4 years significantly reduces the incidence of Parkinson Disease which is another neurological disorder.

    This 'article study' seems to indicate smoking could increase the chances of MS.

    I don't see how both studies could possibly be valid nor accurate.

    April 12, 2010 at 01:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. gt

    re: Smith360, how about you leave the neurology to the doctors? MS and Parkinson's are very different.

    oh, and stop smoking.

    April 15, 2010 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.