Skin cancer in people with multiple sclerosis: a record linkage study
- 1Unit of Health-Care Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Institute of Health Sciences, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
- 2Department of Epidemiology, Public Health, University College London, Medical School, London, UK
- Correspondence to: Dr M J Goldacre Unit of Health-Care Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Institute of Health Sciences, Oxford University, Old Road, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK;
- Accepted 27 July 2003
Objective: The prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) varies with latitude: it increases with distance from the equator in both hemispheres. To seek evidence on whether solar radiation is a protective factor for MS, this study investigated whether skin cancer, as an indicator of solar radiation, is less common in people with MS than in others.
Design: Analysis of a database of linked hospital records and death certificates.
Setting: The Oxford Region of the National Health Service, England.
Subjects: A cohort comprising all people in the database with MS, and comparison cohorts of people with other diseases.
Results: Skin cancer was significantly less common in people with MS than in the main comparison cohort (rate ratio 0.49; 95% confidence interval 0.24 to 0.91). There was no general deficit of cancer in the MS cohort, and no deficit of skin cancer in cohorts of people with other autoimmune or neurological diseases.
Conclusion: The findings support the hypothesis that solar radiation may have a protective influence on the development of MS.
↵* Since acceptance of this paper, another study giving similar findings on the same hypothesis has been published.
Funding: The Unit of Health-Care Epidemiology is currently funded for analyses of the Oxford Record Linkage Study by the Research and Development Directorate of the Department of Health and Social Care (South).
Conflicts of interest: none declared.