Smoking and MS: Not a Good Match
Some interesting statistics about people with multiple sclerosis in the U.K. have been released by Public Health England. The numbers are intended to help health commissioners and providers assess “the needs of patients with MS and the provision of health and care services,” according to the government’s website.
- Nearly 106,000 people in England have MS. That’s 190 per 100,000 population, or almost two of every 1,000 people. About 5,000 new cases of MS are diagnosed each year in England. (A Multiple Sclerosis Society estimate covers England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and reports that about 130,000 people live with MS, with about 7,000 new cases diagnosed each year.)
- MS is more than twice as common in women as in men.
- Seventy-five percent of people with MS are 40 to 74 years old.
- Women 50 to 59 years old are three times more likely than men of that age to have MS.
- Smoking rates for men with MS are likely to be higher than the rate in the general population.
- Men and women with MS are more likely to be ex-smokers than the general population.
MS rates remain steady in England
Public Health England reports that the number of new MS cases diagnosed in England has held steady over nine fiscal years ending in 2017. “Each year there are on average 4,950 new case[s] diagnosed and recorded in primary care records.” That’s eight to 11 new cases per 100,000 population. The report calls that change “not statistically significant.” It’s encouraging that the number of cases doesn’t appear to be rising, but it’s discouraging that it’s not dropping.
Smoking and MS in the UK
A study recently published in JAMA Neurology reports that smoking may cause inflammation that increases the risk of MS, and that “patients with MS who smoke have higher rates of disease activity, faster rates of brain atrophy, and a greater disability burden.” The U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that smokers with MS be advised to quit because smoking may increase their MS disability. The MS Society in the U.K. agrees with this advice.
It seems strange that with the knowledge available, Public Health England reports that 23 percent of men with MS and 15 percent of women with MS are smokers. Are healthcare professionals not relaying that important information about MS and smoking to their MS patients? The agency’s research suggests this may be the case. “[O]pportunities still exist to improve the public health messaging relating to smoking and the on-going management of MS,” the report notes. “This could include improvements in communication between specialist neurological staff who support people with MS and the providers of local smoking cessation services.”
That sounds like a good plan to me.
You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.log at www.themswire.com.