(HealthDay News) – The incidence of multiple sclerosis (MS) is higher among blacks and lower in Hispanics and Asians, compared with whites, according to a study published in the May 7 issue of Neurology.

Annette Langer-Gould, MD, PhD, from Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, and colleagues conducted a retrospective cohort study involving multi-ethnic, community-dwelling members of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health plan to examine whether the incidence of MS varies by race/ethnicity.

The researchers identified 496 patients newly diagnosed with MS (average age at diagnosis, 41.6 years), of which 70.2% were female. The predominance among females was significantly greater for blacks (79.3%), compared with whites (67.8%), Hispanics (68.1%), and Asians (69.2%). Compared with whites, the incidence of MS was significantly higher among blacks and significantly lower among Hispanics and Asians. Compared with whites, black women had a significantly higher risk of MS (risk ratio, 1.59), while the risk was similar for black men.

“Our findings do not support the belief that MS rarely affects blacks, yet do not follow the skin tone gradient associated with lower vitamin D levels,” the authors write. “These findings indicate that inclusion of minorities in studies of MS susceptibility and prognosis will likely reveal important insights into the etiology of MS.”

One author is a principle investigator for several industry-sponsored trials.

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