The different rates of MS in men and women has always seemed to me to contain important clues about the origin of the disease. That ratio has changed dramatically over the years, and the difference has become even more pronounced, so maybe the clues might become a little bit more obvious:
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American Academy of Neurology <http://www.aan.com/press>
Over time, more women are developing MS than men
BOSTON -- Over time, more women are developing multiple sclerosis (MS) than men, according to research that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 59th Annual Meeting in Boston, April 28 - May 5, 2007.
In 1940, the ratio of women to men with MS in the United States was approximately two to one. By 2000, that ratio had grown to approximately four to one.
"That's an increase in the ratio of women to men of nearly 50 percent per decade," said study author Gary Cutter, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. "We don't yet know why more women are developing MS than men, and more research is needed."
Cutter said researchers will need to explore multiple changes that have occurred for women over the last several decades, including the use of oral contraceptives, earlier menstruation, obesity rates, changes in smoking rates, and later age of first births.
"We also need to ask the general questions about what women do differently than men, such as use of hair dye and use of cosmetics that may block vitamin D absorption," he said. "At this point we're just speculating on avenues of research that could be pursued."
Cutter said the largest increase in the ratio has been for those whose MS started at younger ages.
For the study, researchers examined a database (the North American Research Committee On Multiple Sclerosis, or NARCOMS, hosted at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Ariz.) of 30,336 people with MS and determined the male/female ratio according to the year the disease was diagnosed and the age of the person when the disease started.
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The study was supported by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of over 20,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and stroke.
For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit www.aan.com
Editor's Note: Dr. Cutter will present this research during a scientific poster session at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 2, 2007, in Exhibit Hall A of the Hynes Convention Center.
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