HealthDay News — Childhood sexual and emotional abuse are associated with an increased risk for developing multiple sclerosis (MS) in women, according to a study published online April 4 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Karine Eid, M.D., from Haukeland University in Bergen, Norway, and colleagues conducted a nationwide prospective cohort study based on participants in the Norwegian Mother, Father, and Child cohort study, with enrollment between 1999 and 2008. Self-completed questionnaires were reviewed to identify childhood abuse before age 18 years, and the association with subsequent MS diagnosis was examined.

The researchers found that 14,477 women were exposed to childhood abuse and 63,520 were not exposed. During the follow-up period, 300 women developed MS; 24 percent reported a history of childhood abuse compared with 19 percent of women who did not develop MS. An increased risk for MS was seen in association with sexual abuse and emotional abuse in childhood (hazard ratios [95 percent confidence intervals], 1.65 [1.13 to 2.39] and 1.40 [1.03 to 1.90], respectively). The risk for MS was not significantly increased in association with exposure to physical abuse (hazard ratio, 1.31; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.83 to 2.06). Exposure to two or all three abuse categories was associated with a further increased risk for MS (hazard ratios [95 percent confidence intervals], 1.66 [1.04 to 2.67] and 1.93 [1.02 to 3.67], respectively).


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“Children exposed to adverse experiences had an increased risk of developing MS later in life, independent of known environmental risk factors for MS,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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