OSLO, July 2 ― New European research has found that patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) may have a higher risk of cancer compared to those without the disease.

Led by researchers at Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway, the new long-term study followed 6,883 Norwegian MS patients born between 1930 and 1979 for up to 65 years, as well as including data from 8,918 siblings without MS, and 37,919 non-MS individuals.

The findings, which were presented on Sunday at the 5th European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Congress in Oslo, showed that MS patients appeared to have a 14 per cent increased overall risk of developing cancer than the general population.

Moreover, they also appeared to have an especially high risk of cancer in respiratory organs (66 per cent increase in risk), urinary organs (51 per cent increase in risk) and the central nervous system (52 per cent increase).

In addition, siblings of patients with MS, but who don’t have MS themselves, appeared to have a higher risk of developing haematological cancer, a type of blood cancer that includes myeloma, lymphoma and leukaemia, compared with both MS patients and the general population.

“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.

According to Dr Grytten, the findings may also suggest that MS and haematological cancer could share some of the same causes.

“Previous clinical studies of cancer risk in MS patients in various countries have shown inconsistent findings, so further research is needed to help improve our understanding in this area,” stated Dr Grytten. “This research outlines the need for greater awareness of cancer risk among MS patients, which should lead to shortened cancer diagnosis and more effective therapy in order to improve outcomes and survival.”

“Additional research could also identify the possible connections between haematological cancer and MS and new ways in which we could manage these conditions,” she added.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease affecting the central nervous system, especially the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Symptoms range from problems with vision to difficulties with arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.

It is one of the most common causes of disability affecting young adults, and shortens the lifespan of patients by an average of 7 years. — AFP-Relaxnews