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More Education, More Parkinson's Risk

Study: Highest Odds for Doctors; Lowest Odds for Construction Workers

No Proof of Direct Cause

This study was done in hindsight. The researchers knew up front who had Parkinson's and who didn't. They didn't follow 400 random people for a few decades to see who got the brain disease as the years gathered.

The study was also observational. No one was told to get an advanced degree to see what happened to their Parkinson's risk.

The study doesn't prove that education or career choice drives Parkinson's risk, the researchers note.

They add that other studies have shown that physical activity may lower Parkinson's risk, so physically active jobs (like construction work and farming) could have perks in those areas.

Then again, doctors and more highly educated people might be more likely to see a doctor for problems that turn out to be Parkinson's disease, the researchers note.

Researcher's Comments

Mayo Clinic neurologist Demetrius (Jim) Maraganaore, MD, who worked on the study, shared his views, in a news release.

"I don't think that schooling or wearing a stethoscope causes brain cells to degenerate or that digging holes with a digger protects your brain cells from atrophy, but I think that these are indirect indicators of factors that may relate to brain degeneration," he says.

"Now, what we need to do is use these clues to try and identify those molecular level events that differentiate these people," Maraganore continues.

"I think that the bottom line is that we're talking about going from a baseline risk of 2% to develop Parkinson's disease during a lifetime to a risk of 4% if you are highly educated or a physician, or 1% if you are less educated or more physically active," he adds.

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