Objective – Previous reports suggested an association between allergy, autoimmunity, and risk of multiple sclerosis (MS), but results have been inconsistent. The present study assessed the association between history of allergy and autoimmune diseases, and the risk of MS.
Methods – We conducted a case–control study nested in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and NHS II cohorts. A total of 298 women with MS were matched with 1248 healthy controls and 248 women with history of breast cancer. A mailed questionnaire gathered information about history of allergic conditions and autoimmune disorders.
Results – History of allergy was not associated with MS risk [odds ratio (OR) 1.0, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.8–1.4]. As expected, cases were more likely to have a positive family history of MS than controls (OR 9.7, 95% CI 6.1–15.3). A modest association was found between family history of other autoimmune diseases and MS risk (OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.0–1.8). We obtained similar results when we used women with breast cancer as comparison group.
Conclusion – Family history of other autoimmune diseases was associated with a higher MS risk, suggesting a common genetic background or shared environmental triggers. There was no clear association between personal history of allergy and risk of MS.