Timing of birth and risk of multiple sclerosis: population based study.
Willer CJ., Dyment DA., Sadovnick AD., Rothwell PM., Murray TJ., Ebers GC., Canadian Collaborative Study Group None.
OBJECTIVES: To determine if risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) is associated with month of birth in countries in the northern hemisphere and if factors related to month of birth interact with genetic risk. DESIGN: Population based study with population and family based controls and a retrospective cohort identified from death certificates. A post hoc pooled analysis was carried out for large northern datasets including Sweden and Denmark. SETTING: 19 MS clinics in major cities across Canada (Canadian collaborative project on the genetic susceptibility to multiple sclerosis); incident cases of MS from a population based study in the Lothian and Border regions of Scotland; and death records from the UK Registrar General. POPULATIONS: 17,874 Canadian patients and 11,502 British patients with multiple sclerosis. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. RESULTS: In Canada (n = 17,874) significantly fewer patients with MS were born in November compared with controls from the population census and unaffected siblings. These observations were confirmed in a dataset of British patients (n = 11, 502), in which there was also an increase in the number of births in May. A pooled analysis of datasets from Canada, Great Britain, Denmark, and Sweden (n = 42,045) showed that significantly fewer (8.5%) people with MS were born in November and significantly more (9.1%) were born in May. For recent incident data, the effect of month of birth was most evident in Scotland, where MS prevalence is the highest. CONCLUSIONS: Month of birth and risk of MS are associated, more so in familial cases, implying interactions between genes and environment that are related to climate. Such interactions may act during gestation or shortly after birth in individuals born in the northern countries studied.