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Cigarette smoking and the progression of multiple sclerosis

Miguel A. Hernán, Susan S. Jick, Giancarlo Logroscino, Michael J. Olek, Alberto Ascherio, Hershel Jick
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awh471 1461-1465 First published online: 9 March 2005

Summary

An increased risk of multiple sclerosis among smokers has been found in several prospective epidemiological studies. The association between smoking and progression of multiple sclerosis has not been examined. We identified patients who had a first multiple sclerosis diagnosis recorded in the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) between January 1993 and December 2000. Their diagnosis and date of first symptoms were confirmed through examination of medical records. Smoking status was obtained from the computer records. To assess the association between smoking and risk of multiple sclerosis, we conducted a case–control study nested in the GPRD. Up to 10 controls per case were randomly selected, matched on age, sex, practice, date of joining the practice and availability of smoking data. To assess the association between smoking and progression of multiple sclerosis, we conducted a cohort study of multiple sclerosis cases with a relapsing–remitting onset. Our nested case–control study included 201 cases of multiple sclerosis and 1913 controls. The odds ratio [95% confidence interval (CI)] of multiple sclerosis was 1.3 (1.0–1.7) for ever smokers compared with never smokers. Our cohort study included 179 cases with a mean (median) length of follow-up of 5.3 (5.3) years. The hazard ratio of secondary progression was 3.6 (95% CI 1.3–9.9) for ever smokers compared with never smokers. These results support the hypothesis that cigarette smoking is associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis, and suggest that smoking may be a risk factor for transforming a relapsing–remitting clinical course into a secondary progressive course.

  • smoking
  • multiple sclerosis
  • progressive clinical course
  • cohort
  • CI = confidence interval
  • GP = general practitioner
  • NO = nitric oxide
  • OR = odds ratio
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