A new Mayo Clinic study found that there may be a difference between men and women in the patterns of risk factors for Parkinson’s disease. In men, the most important factors were lifestyle and occupational risk factors acting independently. By contrast, in women, none of the lifestyle and occupational factors was important and the primary factor was anemia.
“Although several environmental and genetic factors have been associated with Parkinson’s disease one-at-a-time, they have rarely been studied together in the same population,” says Walter Rocca, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic and senior author of this study. “By studying the joint effects of several risk factors, we can identify specific subgroups of people who may develop Parkinson’s disease later in life.”
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. Symptoms include tremor, slowed movement and rigid muscles. At least 1 million people in the U.S. are believed to have Parkinson’s disease, and 2 percent of the population can expect to develop the disease during their lifetime.
As part of the Rochester Epidemiology Project, the researchers studied 196 individuals who developed Parkinson’s disease in Olmsted County, Minn. from 1976 through 1995, and an equal number of matched population controls. They considered the following variables that had been previously investigated one-at-a-time: personal history of head trauma, pesticide use, immunologic diseases, anemia, hysterectomy (only in women), cigarette smoking, coffee consumption, and education; and family history of parkinsonism, essential tremor, dementia or psychiatric disorders.
When considering men and women together, the researchers observed the independent effects of anemia, no coffee consumption, and head trauma; however, the most important finding was a different pattern in men and women. In men, they observed the independent effects of no coffee consumption, head trauma, and pesticide use. By contrast, in women, none of these lifestyle and occupational factors was important and anemia was the most important risk factor.
This study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Toronto this week.