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A nationwide survey of the influence of month of birth on the risk of developing multiple sclerosis in Sweden and Iceland

Journal article
Authors Olöf Eliasdottir
Anders Hildeman
Marco Longfils
Olle Nerman
Jan Lycke
Published in Journal of Neurology
Volume 265
Issue 1
Pages 108-114
ISSN 0340-5354
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Mathematical Sciences
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience
Pages 108-114
Language en
Keywords Multiple sclerosis, Month of birth, Risk factors, Epidemiology, Sweden, Iceland, vitamin-d, ultraviolet-radiation, population, prevalence, exposure
Subject categories Neurology, Epidemiology


Previous studies have shown that the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) is associated with season of birth with a higher proportion of MS patients being born in spring. However, this relationship has recently been questioned and may be due to confounding factors. Our aim was to assess the influence from season or month of birth on the risk of developing MS in Sweden and Iceland. Information about month of birth, gender, and phenotype of MS for patients born 1940-1996 was retrieved from the Swedish MS registry (SMSR), and their place of birth was retrieved from the Swedish Total Population Registry (TPR). The corresponding information was retrieved from medical journals of Icelandic MS patients born 1981-1996. The control groups consisted of every person born in Sweden 1940-1996, their gender and county of birth (TPR), and in Iceland all persons born between 1981 and 1996 and their gender (Statistics Iceland). We calculated the expected number of MS patients born during each season and in every month and compared it with the observed number. Adjustments were made for gender, birth year, and county of birth. We included 12,020 Swedish and 108 Icelandic MS patients in the analyses. There was no significant difference between expected and observed MS births related to season or month of birth in Sweden or Iceland. This was even the results before adjustments were made for birth year and birth place. No significant differences were found in subgroup analyses including data of latitude of birth, gender, clinical phenotype, and MS onset of 30 years or less. Our results do not support the previously reported association between season or month of birth and MS risk. Analysis of birth place and birth year as possible confounding factors showed no major influence of them on the seasonal MS risk in Sweden and Iceland.

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