A French case-control smoking MS study showed that children were more than twice as likely to get MS if their parents smoked, and the longer they were exposed, the more likely MS was to develop.5 So passive smoking is harmful in MS as well. Another smoking MS study from Austrian researchers published in 2008 showed that for people who had had an initial attack suggestive of MS, smokers were nearly twice as likely to go on and develop definite MS, and to develop it earlier than non-smokers.6 This has important implications for relatives of people with MS. Both passive smoking in the household and active smoking by as yet unaffected relatives make the development of MS more likely. A 2009 report from Johns Hopkins University presented to the AAN meeting in Seattle noted that those who started smoking earlier, in their study, before the age of 17, were considerably more likely to develop MS.
Unfortunately, studies have shown more people with MS smoking than in the general population.7 Smoking is an important potential modifier of the progression of MS. For people with MS who still smoke, this strong evidence means that making a positive choice about giving up smoking for better health in general is likely to favourably affect the course of MS as well. It is a reasonably simple lifestyle change which can make a great difference to disease progression.
- Hernan MA, Oleky MJ, Ascherio A. Cigarette smoking and incidence of multiple sclerosis. Am J Epidemiol 2001; 154:69-74.
- Riise T, Nortvedt MW, Ascherio A. Smoking is a risk factor for multiple sclerosis. Neurology 2003; 61:1122-1124
- Hernan MA, Jick SS, Logroscino G, et al. Cigarette smoking and the progression of multiple sclerosis. Brain 2005
- Sundstrom P, Nystrom L. Smoking worsens the prognosis in multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler 2008
- Mikaeloff Y, Caridade G, Tardieu M, et al. Parental smoking at home and the risk of childhood-onset multiple sclerosis in children. Brain 2007; 130:2589-2595
- Di Pauli F, Reindl M, Ehling R, et al. Smoking is a risk factor for early conversion to clinically definite multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler 2008
- Nortvedt MW, Riise T, Maeland JG. Multiple sclerosis and lifestyle factors: the Hordaland Health Study. Neurol Sci 2005; 26:334-339