Smoking and multiple sclerosis risk in black people: A nested case-control study

Vinicius A. Schoeps*, Marianna Cortese, Kassandra L. Munger, James D. Mancuso, David W. Niebuhr, Xiaojing Peng, Alberto Ascherio, Kjetil Bjornevik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Smoking is a well-established risk factor for MS; however, it is not known whether its effect on disease risk varies by race/ethnicity. Methods: We conducted a nested case-control study among US military personnel who have serum samples stored at the Department of Defense Serum Repository. We measured serum cotinine levels, a marker of tobacco smoke exposure, in 157 Black and 23 White individuals who developed MS during follow-up. Controls were randomly selected and matched to each case by age, sex, race/ethnicity, dates of sample collection, and branch of military service. Results: Smoking was not associated with an increased risk of MS in Black people (RR: 1.08, 95 % CI: 0.63–1.85). The results remained similar in analyses restricted to smoking status at baseline, to samples collected 5 years before symptom onset, and using different cut-off levels in cotinine to define smoking status. Smoking was not statistically significantly associated with MS risk in White people, but the point estimate was similar to what has previously been reported in other studies (RR: 1.85, 95 % CI: 0.56–6.16). Conclusions: Smoking was not associated with MS risk in Black people. Given the consistent association between smoking and MS risk in predominantly White populations, this may suggest that the association between smoking and MS varies by race/ethnicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105375
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Cotinine
  • Epidemiology
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Smoking


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