Cancer risk among patients with multiple sclerosis and their parents

Neurology. 2009 Mar 31;72(13):1170-7. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000345366.10455.62.


Background: We investigated cancer risk among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and whether variation by age at MS diagnosis helps to elucidate mechanisms underlying the previously reported reduced cancer risk. We also studied cancer risk among parents to ascertain if MS susceptibility genes may confer protection against cancer in relatives.

Methods: Cox proportional hazards regression, adjusted for age, sex, area, and socioeconomic index, estimated cancer risk among 20,276 patients with MS and 203,951 individuals without MS, using Swedish general population register data. Similar analyses were conducted among 11,284 fathers and 12,006 mothers of patients with MS, compared with 123,158 fathers and 129,409 mothers of controls.

Results: With an average of 35 years of follow-up, there was a decreased overall cancer risk among patients with MS (hazard ratio = 0.91, 0.87-0.95). Increased risks were observed for brain tumors (1.44, 1.21-1.72) and urinary organ cancer (1.27, 1.05-1.53). Parents of patients with MS did not have a notably increased or decreased overall cancer risk.

Conclusions: The reduction in cancer risk in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may result from behavioral change, treatment, or we speculate that some immunologic characteristics of MS disease activity improve antitumor surveillance. The lack of association among parents indicates that a simple inherited characteristic is unlikely to explain the reduced cancer risk among patients with MS. MS is associated with increased risk for some cancers, such as of urinary organs and brain tumors (although surveillance bias may be responsible).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Parents*
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult