There is increasing research evidence that smoking tobacco is a significant contributing risk factor in the cause and progression of MS. Whilst the cause of MS is unknown it is widely accepted that it is caused by a combination of a number of factors, eg genetic susceptibility combined with one or more environmental factors. There is increasing evidence that infection with a virus, particularly Epstein Barr virus (EBV), and low levels of Vitamin D are both implicated. Smoking is also seen as a contributing risk factor; the combined analysis of 14 research studies, involving 3,052 people with MS and 457,619 controls, showed that a history of smoking was associated with an increased risk of developing MS.
The AusImmune study, an Australian based research project, has shown that smoking is the most significant lifestyle risk factor associated with a first demyelinating event (a precursor to a diagnosis of MS). Two MS researchers in the UK have now published results suggesting that regular smoking is associated with more severe disease and faster disability progression. The good news for current smokers is that smoking cessation, whether before or after onset of the disease, is associated with a slower progression of disability. This study demonstrates that regular smoking is associated with more severe disease, in addition to faster progression to disability. A slower progression of disability is seen in those that stop smoking either before or after disease onset.
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