Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

Font Size

Smoking at Young Age May Raise MS Risk

Study Shows Higher Risk of Multiple Sclerosis for Smokers Who Start Smoking Habit Early
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 20, 2009 -- Youngsters who start smoking before age 17 may be putting themselves at increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, a new study suggests.

Researchers studied 87 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) who were among more than 30,000 people who took part in the 2002 National Health Interview Survey.

The people were divided into three groups: nonsmokers, early smokers who started before age 17, and late smokers who started at 17 or later.

The people who started smoking before age 17 were 2.7 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop multiple sclerosis, the researchers say.

People who started smoking at 17 or later did not show an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis compared to nonsmokers, according to the researchers.

About 32% of the MS patients were early smokers, compared to 19% of the people who didn't develop the disease, the researchers say.

"Studies show that environmental factors play a prominent role in multiple sclerosis," says study researcher Joseph Finkelstein, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. "Early smoking is an environmental factor that can be avoided."

The study findings took into account sex, race, age, marital status, education, income level, and region.

The researchers say limited studies in the past also have suggested smoking as a risk factor for MS.

Their findings are to be presented April 25-May 2 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Seattle.

Today on WebMD

brain and teriflunomide molecule
ARTICLE
neural fiber
ARTICLE
 
white blood cells
VIDEO
linguini with asparagus and mushrooms
ARTICLE
 
brain scan
ARTICLE
worried woman
ARTICLE
 
person writin in a notebook
ARTICLE
couple embracing
ARTICLE
 
man with cane
SLIDESHOW
skull and neck xray
ARTICLE
 
Stressed man
ARTICLE
doctor feeling patients neck
ASSESSMENT