Correlation of multiple sclerosis (MS) incidence trends with solar and geomagnetic indices: Time to revise the method of reporting MS epidemiological data
BACKGROUND Recently, we introduced solar related geomagnetic disturbances (GMD) as a potential environmental risk factor for multiple sclerosis (MS). The aim of this study was to test probable correlation between solar activities and GMD with long-term variations of MS incidence. METHODS After a systematic review, we studied the association betwee n alterations in the solar wind velocity (VSW) and planetary A index (AP, a GMD index) with MS incidence in Tehran and western Greece, during the 23(rd) solar cycle (1996-2008), by an ecological-correlational study. RESULTS We found moderate to strong correlations among MS incidence of Tehran with VSW (rS = 0.665, P = 0.013), with 1 year delay, and also with AP (rS = 0.864, P = 0.001) with 2 year delay. There were very strong correlations among MS incidence data of Greece with VSW (r = 0.906, P < 0.001) and with AP (r = 0.844, P = 0.001), both with 1 year lag. CONCLUSION It is the first time that a hypothesis has introduced an environmental factor that may describe MS incidence alterations; however, it should be reminded that correlation does not mean necessarily the existence of a causal relationship. Important message of these findings for researchers is to provide MS incidence reports with higher resolution for consecutive years, based on the time of disease onset and relapses, not just the time of diagnosis. Then, it would be possible to further investigate the validity of GMD hypothesis or any other probable environmental risk factors.