The following article is part of conference coverage from the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers in Nashville, Tennesssee. Neurology Advisor’s staff will be reporting breaking news associated with research conducted by leading experts in neurology. Check back for the latest news from CMSC 2018.

A study has shown that children with acquired demyelinating syndromes (ADSs) who report a lighter skin tone and a non-white race are more likely to receive a diagnosis of MS, though this effect is likely due to factors other than UV absorption. This research was presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, held May 30-June 2, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Research took place at multiple sites in Canada from 2004 to 2017. Between 2010 and 2017, the study researchers assessed skin tone by studying an area of the upper inner arm that did not receive significant sun exposure. 

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The MS and monophasic ADS groups were compared using quantified melanin measurements via the DSM II Colorimeter; self-reported skin tones of fair, medium, olive, or dark; a self-reported race; and skin tone, which was self-reported using 10 numerical panels of color. The study researchers used Fisher’s exact tests, χ2 tests, and Kruskal-Wallis or Wilcoxon tests to compare between groups.

The study researchers included 107 children in this study, 42 of whom had MS and 65 of whom had monophasic ADS. The groups did not differ significantly by melanin measurements (P =.98) or self-reported skin tones (P =.25). There was a higher number of children who reported a non-white race in the MS group (P =.03). There was also a difference in self-reported skin tone, with an interquartile range (IQR) of 5 (4-8) in the MS group and an IQR of 6 (4-7) in the monophasic ADS group (P =.01). In this last metric, lower numbers correspond with lighter skin tones.

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The study researchers concluded that “[in] this environment [latitudinal zone (43°-51°)], children with ADS are more likely to be diagnosed with MS if they report a non-white race and lighter skin tone. However, melanin content did not distinguish groups, suggesting that factors other than UV absorption, such as genetic risk determinants, dermal synthesis of vitamin D, diet, and other factors are likely contributing to the difference in outcome.”


Dunn CL, Yea C, Hanwell HE, et al. Relationship between skin tone and pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis. Poster presentation at: 2018 CMSC Annual Meeting. May 30-June 2, 2018; Nashville, TN. Abstract NB08.For more coverage of CMSC 2018, click here.