Epidemiology of multiple sclerosis: from risk factors to prevention

Semin Neurol. 2008 Feb;28(1):17-28. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1019126.


Although genetic susceptibility explains the clustering of multiple sclerosis (MS) within families and the sharp decline in risk with increasing genetic distance, it cannot fully explain the geographical variations in MS frequency and the changes in risk that occur with migration, which support the action of strong environmental factors. Among these, vitamin D status, infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, and cigarette smoking are emerging as the most consistent predictors of MS risk. In this article, we review the epidemiological data, critically discuss the evidence for causality of these associations, and briefly discuss the possibility of interventions to reduce MS risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / complications
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology