While the worldwide risk of MS linked to obesity in early life is increasing, that associated with smoking seem to be declining.
If truly causal, these observations suggest that efforts to prevent obesity and help people to stop smoking — two environmental risk factors for MS — will lower the rate of this disease’s development on a global scale.
“Our findings highlight the potential to reduce the incidence of MS worldwide with targeted public health strategies,” Ruth Dobson, MD, PhD, a clinical senior lecturer at Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, and the study’s lead author of the study, said in a news story.
“It is not only cancer and heart disease that are influenced by smoking and obesity — shifting the focus to diseases with onset in early adulthood, such as MS, may resonate more with younger people whose lifestyle choices will have an impact on their risk of future illness,” Dobson added.
These findings were reported in the study, “Estimated and projected burden of multiple sclerosis attributable to smoking and childhood and adolescent high body-mass index: a comparative risk assessment,” published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
Environmental risk factors are estimated to account for more than half (53.3%) of one’s total risk of MS. According to previous studies, smoking and excessive body weight in early life are such risk factors for MS. In fact, up to 1 in 5 cases is linked to smoking.
However, their exact contribution to MS development can be hard to estimate, as obesity and smoking rates change over time and differ across populations.
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