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Age at MS Diagnosis Varies by Latitude

By Trevis Gleason

At higher latitudes, MS is diagnosed two years earlier, on average.Which came first: better education of medical practitioners in a particular area of the world to look for symptoms of MS earlier, or the actual earlier onset of MS in that part of the world?

Well, if the findings published in December 2016 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry are correct, it appears that it may be the latter.

Using data on 22,162 people with MS from the MSBase registry, researchers determined that people living in higher latitudes — from 50° to 56° north and south — were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a full two years earlier than similar people living at latitudes from 19° to 40°.

With the exception of northern Europe and Russia, those latitude bands are outside the major population centers of North and South America, Africa, southern Europe, and Asia.

Where Is 50° to 56° North and South?

If you don’t know what latitude belts we’re talking about, I’ll give you an idea. Get out a world map, draw a line from just north of Vancouver, British Columbia; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and on to the northern tip of Newfoundland as the southern border. For the northern border, go from about Inukjuak village on Hudson Bay in Quebec to just north of Fort McMurray in Alberta (which would include only the panhandle of Alaska in the United States). That’s the latitude band.

In Europe, the band includes everything from southern Norway and Sweden in the north down to a line connecting Luxembourg, Prague, and Kiev, and encompassing all of Ireland, the UK, Denmark, the Baltics, most of Poland, and half of Germany.

In the southern hemisphere, only the tip of Patagonia seems to have much in the way of habituated land in this swath of latitude.

Smaller Populations, Fewer Doctors, but Earlier MS

So even though (with the exception of the northern European areas) there are both more people and more doctors per capita at lower latitudes, people living at higher latitudes are diagnosed earlier.

The report only looked at people from population centers that are largely of European ancestry to keep that part of the study constant.

Researchers also noted that women were diagnosed an average of five months earlier than men, in the case of the relapsing-remitting form of the disease (RRMS), and that persons with primary-progressive MS were diagnosed nine years later in life than people with RRMS.

Is Ultraviolet Light Exposure Relevant Here?

Some will say (as does the research team) that these results support a link between UV light exposure (the type of light that triggers the manufacture of vitamin D in the body) and multiple sclerosis. If diagnosis age relates to onset of symptoms, this argument may have just gotten a bit stronger.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EVERYDAYHEALTH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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