Introduction: Lifestyle factors prior to a first clinical demyelinating event (FCD), a disorder often preceding the development of clinically definite multiple sclerosis (MS), have not previously been examined in detail. Past tobacco smoking has been consistently associated with MS.
Methods: This was a multicentre incident case-control study. Cases (n = 282)were aged 18–59 years with an FCD and resident within one of four Australian centres (from latitudes 27°S to 43°S), from 1 November 2003 to 31 December 2006. Controls (n = 558) were matched to cases on age, sex and study region, without CNS demyelination. Exposures measured included current and past tobacco and marijuana, alcohol and beverage use, physical activity patterns, blood pressure and physical anthropometry.
Results: A history of smoking ever was associated with FCD risk (AOR 1.89 (95%CL 1.82, 3.52)). Marijuana use was not associated with FCD risk after adjusting for confounders such as smoking ever but the estimates were imprecise because of a low prevalence of use. Alcohol consumption was common and not associated with FCD risk. No case-control differences in blood pressure or physical anthropometry were observed.
Conclusions: Past tobacco smoking was positively associated with a risk of FCD but most other lifestyle factors were not. Prevention efforts against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease by increasing physical activity and reducing obesity are unlikely to alter MS incidence, and more targeted campaigns will be required.