A 65-year follow-up study of 6,883 patients with Multiple Sclerosis suggests they have a greater overall risk of developing cancer than the general population, with an especially high risk of cancer in respiratory organs, urinary organs and the central nervous system.

Multiple sclerosis is a lifelong disease that affects the central nervous system, especially the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance. MS is one of the most common causes of disability in younger adults, and people with MS have on average 7 years shorter longevity.

The results, presented at the European Academy of Neurology Congress in Oslo, used patients in Norway and also indicated an increased risk of developing hematological cancers in non-MS siblings of MS patients, compared with both MS patients and the general population.

Credit: European Academy of Neurology

Cancer risk among Multiple Sclerosis patients compared to the non-MS population:

Respiratory cancer: 66% increase in risk 

Central nervous system (CNS): 52% increase in risk 

Urinary cancer: 51% increase in risk 

Overall cancer: 14% increase in risk

Hematological cancer is a type of blood cancer that includes myeloma, lymphoma and leukemia. There are many different types of hematological cancers, which can affect the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes in the body. The results of the investigation might suggest that MS and hematological cancer could share a common etiology, which can be important for future treatment of MS and prevention of both diseases.

This long-term analysis was based on patient records from MS patients born between 1930-1979, who were registered with various Norwegian MS and Cancer Registries, and prevalence studies from Norway. The analysis also included data from 8,918 siblings without MS, and 37,919 non-MS individuals.

"This study is the first to compare cancer risk in MS with non-affected siblings of MS patients. The risk assessment between these two groups is extremely interesting because they share the same genetics and environmental conditions," noted Dr Nina Grytten, lead researcher of the study, from Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, who presented the results at the EAN congress.


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