Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Multiple Sclerosis and Geographic Location
The number of people who have
multiple sclerosis (MS) increases the farther away
they are from the equator.
In areas near the equator, MS occurs in fewer than 1 out of 100,000 people. In areas
farther from the equator—such as northern Europe and northern North America—MS
occurs in around 30 to 80 out of 100,000 people.footnote 1 When moving south of the equator, the number of people
with MS is less dramatic, but the same trend is seen.
Some evidence suggests that people who move from a high-risk to a
low-risk area before the age of 15 reduce their chances of developing MS.
But the same is true in reverse. In those who move from a low-risk area to
a high-risk area before the age of 15, the risk of getting MS increases. Those
older than 15 when they move to a new area retain the risk associated with
their old area.footnote 1
Most experts agree that this unusual relationship between geographic
location and MS suggests that an environmental factor is partly responsible for
causing the disease.
Ropper AH, Samuels MA (2009). Multiple sclerosis and allied demyelinative diseases. In Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology, 9th ed., pp. 874–903. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Other Works Consulted
Spelman T, et al. (2014). Seasonal variation of relapse rate in multiple sclerosis is latitude dependent. Annals of Neurology, published online October 4, 2014. DOI: 10.1002/ana.24287. Accessed October 31, 2014.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerBarrie J. Hurwitz, MD - Neurology
Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015
Current as of:
February 20, 2015
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Barrie J. Hurwitz, MD - Neurology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
I Want To...
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.