Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

Font Size

Fathers More Likely to Pass MS On

Men With Multiple Sclerosis Appear Twice as Apt to Give Disease to Their Children
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 25, 2006 -- Kids may be more likely to inherit multiple sclerosis (MS)multiple sclerosis (MS) from their fathers than their mothers.

That news -- published in today's issue of Neurology -- may, at first glance, seem to defy MS statistics. MS is about twice as common in women as in men.

But "fathers with MS tend to have more children who develop MS than do mothers with the disease," says neurologist Brian Weinshenker, MD, in a Mayo Clinic news release.

Weinshenker helped conduct the new study. He works at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., along with fellow researcher and neurologist Orhun Kantarci, MD.

The findings shouldn't affect how men with MS are counseled about their children's MS risk, Kantarci says in the news release. The study is "primarily of interest to scientists," he explains.

Checking the Family Tree

The researchers studied 441 children in 206 families who had a father or mother with MS. Of those children, 45 definitely had MS.

Children of fathers with MS were about twice as likely to have definite MS as those whose mothers had MS, even after taking MS risk factors into account, the study shows.

Scientists don't know exactly what causes MS. But they suspect a mix of genetic and environmental factors is involved.

The study doesn't pinpoint the reason for the parent-child MS trend. But the researchers have a theory.

"The hypothesis of the study is that men are more resistant to MS, so they need stronger or a larger number of genes in order to develop MS, and then pass these genes to their children," Kantarci says.

The findings need confirmation. Meanwhile, Kantarci puts the odds in perspective with this explanation:

The risk of having MS if you've got a parent with the disease is about 20 times higher than if you don't have a parent with MS. The additional risk of having a father with MS is not sufficient to change patient counseling practices.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
woman applying lotion
Ideas on how to boost your mood and self-esteem.
 
woman pondering
Get personalized treatment options.
man with hand over eye
Be on the lookout for these symptoms.
 
brain scan
ARTICLE
worried woman
ARTICLE
 
neural fiber
ARTICLE
white blood cells
VIDEO
 
sunlight in hands
ARTICLE
illustration of human spine
ARTICLE
 
muscle spasm
ARTICLE
green eyed woman with glasses
ARTICLE
 

WebMD Special Sections