UK case control study of smoking and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Sarah Opie-Martin*, Robyn E Wootton, George Davey Smith, et al.

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
108 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: Susceptibility to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is associated with smoking in some studies, but it is not clear which aspect of smoking behavior is related. Using detailed records of lifetime smoking we investigated the relationship between smoking and ALS in a UK population.

Methods: In this retrospective case-control study, smoking status was collected using environmental questionnaires from people diagnosed with ALS between 2008 and 2013 and from age, sex and geographically matched controls. Categorical measures of smoking behavior were: smoking at the time of survey and smoking initiation; continuous measures were intensity (cigarettes per day), duration (years from starting to stopping or time of survey), cigarette pack years, and comprehensive smoking index (CSI), a measure of lifetime smoking. We used logistic regression to assess the risk of ALS with different combinations of smoking variables adjusted for age at survey, gender, level of education, smoking status and alcohol initiation, selecting the best model using the Akaike Information Criterion.

Results: There were 388 records with full smoking history. The best-fitting model used CSI and smoking status at the time of survey. We found a weak association between current smoking and risk of ALS, OR 3.63 (95% CI 1.02–13.9) p value 0.05. Increase in CSI score did not increase risk of ALS: OR 0.81 (95% CI 0.58–1.11) p value 0.2.

Conclusion: There is weak evidence of a positive effect of current smoking on the risk of ALS which does not show dose-dependence with higher levels of lifetime smoking and maybe a false positive result.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalAmyotrophic lateral sclerosis & frontotemporal degeneration
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2020


  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
  • smoking
  • case control


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