Aug 27, 2009
New Study Associates Smoking with Tissue Damage in People with MS
In a further confirmation of the negative impacts of cigarette smoking by people who have multiple sclerosis, researchers recently reported finding links between smoking and brain tissue damage observed on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of 368 people with MS. Robert Zivadinov, MD, PhD, and Murali Ramanathan, PhD (State University of New York, Buffalo) and colleagues report their findings in Neurology (2009;73:504-510).
Background: MS is not contagious or directly inherited, but scientists have identified factors that help determine whether a person will develop MS. These factors include genes, gender, age, geography, and ethnic background. Previous studies have suggested that cigarette smoking increases a person’s risk for developing MS. Some studies have also hinted that smoking could contribute to disease progression (worsening), and a recent study found that MS disability progressed more quickly in smokers, and suggested that quitting may delay MS progression.
This Study: The team administered a questionnaire on smoking history and current smoking habits to 368 consecutive people with MS during the course of routine clinical follow-up visits, which showed that 240 had never smoked, and 128 were current or former smokers. The investigators compared participants’ MRI scans that measured disease activity and brain tissue atrophy (shrinkage), and the results were correlated with smoking history/habits and clinical characteristics of their disease. Smoking (active smokers or ever-smokers) was associated with increased physical disability as measured by the EDSS (Expanded Disability Status Scale) over that observed for never-smokers, supporting previous studies. Smokers also had greater amounts of tissue damage (lesions) observed on gadolinium-enhanced MRI (which highlights areas of breakdown in the blood-brain barrier that indicate inflammation); a greater volume of brain lesions; and more brain atrophy.