Distance from equator may affect age of MS development

Published date: 04 Nov 2016 at 3:02PM

New research suggests that people living in countries further from the equator develop MS slightly earlier.

Researchers found that MS symptoms appeared on average 10 months earlier for every 10 degree increase in latitude. That’s about the difference between Edinburgh and Venice, or London and Rome.

The study involved over 20,000 people with MS living in 21 different countries, including Mexico, Australia and Spain.

Understanding the causes of MS

We don’t fully understand what causes MS – research suggests that it’s a mixture of genetic and environmental factors.

This study adds to existing evidence that MS is more common in countries further from the equator. However, the study doesn’t explain why.

Researchers are actively exploring the link between exposure to sunlight, vitamin D and MS.

Other genetic and environmental factors are also being investigated, including infections and diet.

We welcome more research

Dr Sorrel Bickley, our Head of Biomedical Research, said:

“We’ve known for many years that people living in less sunny climates are more likely to develop MS. This study indicates that a lack of sunlight could also contribute to when the first symptoms of MS appear.

“We welcome studies like this that help us understand more about the causes of this unpredictable condition.”

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Page last updated: 04 Nov 2016

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