Page last updated: September 24, 2012
Smoking, alcohol consumption, and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. Smoking has been posited as a possible risk factor for ALS, but large population-based studies of patients with incident disease are still needed. The authors performed a population-based case-control study in the Netherlands between 2006 and 2009, including 494 patients with incident ALS and 1,599 controls.
To prove the relevance of population-based incidence cohorts in case-control studies, the authors compared results with those from cohorts including patients with prevalent ALS and referral patients. Subjects were sent a questionnaire. Multivariate analyses showed an increased risk of ALS among current smokers (odds ratio = 1.38, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02, 1.88) in the incident patient group only.
Cox regression models showed that current smoking was also independently associated with shorter survival (hazard ratio = 1.51, 95% CI: 1.07, 2.15), explaining the lack of association in the prevalent and referral patient groups.
Current alcohol consumption was associated with a reduced risk of ALS (incident patient group: odds ratio = 0.52, 95% CI: 0.40, 0.75).
These findings indicate that current smoking is associated with an increased risk of ALS, as well as a worse prognosis, and alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of ALS, further corroborating the role of lifestyle factors in the pathogenesis of ALS.
The importance of population-based incident patient cohorts in identifying risk factors is highlighted by this study.
Source: Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and the Risk of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Population-based Study. de Jong SW, Huisman MH, Sutedja NA, van der Kooi AJ, de Visser M, Schelhaas HJ, Fischer K, Veldink JH, van den Berg LH. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Jul 11.

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