Fox News is reporting that researchers relied on data from Kaiser Permanente Southern California to analyze the health records of 305 women ages 14-48 who were diagnosed with either MS or its precursor CIS (clinically isolated syndrome) between 2008 and 2011. They look at the women's birth control use up to three years prior to the onset of the disease and found a definite link.
"Overall, researchers found a 30 percent increased risk of developing MS amongst women who had at least three months of oral contraceptive use, compared to a control group of 3,050 women who did not have MS," Fox reports.
"They found that 29.2 percent of women with MS used birth control before their diagnoses, while 23 percent of women in the healthy control group used birth control– showing an increased risk with higher use of the drug."
Study author Dr. Kerstin Hellwig, a post-doctoral research fellow at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, told Fox that women who did not currently use an oral contraceptive but had done so three years prior to their diagnosis, also showed a slightly higher risk.
Hellwig explained that MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. The causes are unclear, but environmental hazards and smoking are all considered to be factors.
Researchers are not yet ready to say that use of birth control is a cause for MS, but they do see a link.
“It’s not clear what role [hormones] play in the development of the disease, but it’s clear that two to three times more women than men have MS,” Hellwig said.
Hellwig said her team only studied data for women who used oral contraceptives for at least three months, but expects to see an increased risk with longer use in their final analysis, which will be presented at the upcoming American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting.
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