Smoking is risk factor for devastating brain illness ALS, study says

January 31, 2024  08:27

New research is helping confirm smoking as a risk factor for the devastating brain illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), HealthDay reported.

The findings were published in the January issue of the journal Tobacco Induced Diseases.

ALS affects roughly 31,000 Americans each year, with about 5,000 new cases diagnosed annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's a progressive, fatal illness that causes nerves cells controlling muscles to slowly die, leading to weakness and paralysis.

The causes of ALS are unknown, and even risk factors for the disease remain unclear.

In their new research, a team from South Korea looked at the data from 32 different studies for possible links between smoking and ALS.

They found that people who had smoked had a 12% higher odds of developing ALS compared to those who hadn't, with risks rising even higher if the person was a current smoker.

The link between smoking and ALS appeared stronger for women smokers, who had a 20% higher odds for the disease than women who hadn't smoked. After adjusting for other potential risk factors, that added risk rose to 25%, the study found.

There are lots of great reasons to quit smoking, and now "encouraging individuals to discontinue smoking is crucial, given its tangible impact on reducing the likelihood of ALS onset," the researchers said.

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