Cigarette smoking and incidence of multiple sclerosis

Am J Epidemiol. 2001 Jul 1;154(1):69-74. doi: 10.1093/aje/154.1.69.


Experimental data suggest that cigarette smoking may play a role in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), but epidemiologic studies have been small and inconclusive. The authors assessed the association between MS incidence and smoking in two cohort studies of US women, the Nurses' Health Study (121,700 women aged 30-55 years at baseline in 1976) and the Nurses' Health Study II (116,671 women aged 25-42 years at baseline in 1989). Smoking history was assessed at baseline and updated on biennial questionnaires. A total of 315 definite or probable cases of MS were documented. Compared with that for women who never smoked, the relative incidence rate was 1.6 (95% confidence interval: 1.2, 2.1) among current smokers and 1.2 (95% confidence interval: 0.9, 1.6) among past smokers after adjustment for age, latitude, and ancestry. The relative rate increased significantly with cumulative exposure to smoking (p for trend < 0.05), from 1.1 (95% confidence interval: 0.8, 1.6) for 1-9 pack-years to 1.5 (95% confidence interval: 1.2, 2.1) for 10-24 pack-years and 1.7 (95% confidence interval: 1.2, 2.4) for 25 or more pack-years. Similar results were obtained after adjustment for other potential confounding factors. Although these prospective results do not prove a cause-and-effect relation, they suggest that smoking is associated with an increased risk of MS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / etiology
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • United States / epidemiology