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How does the environment affect someone's risk of multiple sclerosis?

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Epidemiological data show several interesting trends regarding multiple sclerosis: Different populations and ethnic groups have markedly different prevalences of MS. The disease is especially common in Scotland, Scandinavia, and throughout northern Europe. In the U.S. the prevalence of MS is higher in whites than in other racial groups.

Studies show that MS is more common in certain parts of the world, but if you move from an area with higher risk to one of lower risk, you acquire the risk of your new home if the move occurs prior to adolescence. Such data suggest that exposure to some environmental agent encountered before puberty may predispose a person to MS.

Moreover, MS is a disease of temperate climates. In both hemispheres, its prevalence increases with distance from the equator.

In addition, "epidemics" of multiple sclerosis have taken place -- for example, it occurred in a group of people living off the coast of Denmark after WWII, suggesting an environmental cause.

SOURCES:

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "What causes MS?"

Mayo Clinic: Multiple sclerosis: "Causes."

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: "What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?"

Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky on August 26, 2019

SOURCES:

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "What causes MS?"

Mayo Clinic: Multiple sclerosis: "Causes."

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: "What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?"

Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky on August 26, 2019

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What role do genetics play in multiple sclerosis?

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