Genetic and environmental factors in epilepsy: a population-based study of 11900 Danish twin pairs

M J Kjeldsen, K O Kyvik, K Christensen, M L Friis
Epilepsy Research 2001, 44 (2): 167-78
The contribution of genetic and environmental factors to the occurrence of epilepsy was examined in an unselected sample of twins recruited from the population-based Danish Twin Registry. Information on the occurrence of epilepsy in both members of a twin pair was obtained from 11900 pairs whose ages ranged from 12 to 41 years. Concordance rates, odds ratios and tetrachoric correlations were used to quantify the similarity of monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins. The sample was stratified by sex and separated into two age cohorts for analysis. Significantly higher probandwise concordance rates were found for MZ compared with DZ twins (0.37 and 0.08, P<0.01). Odds ratios and tetrachoric correlation showed similar pattern. An etiological model including additive genetic and individual specific environmental factors provided the best overall fit to the data, with 70 and 88% of the liability to develop epilepsy being accounted for by genetic factors in the younger and older cohorts, respectively. Individual specific environmental factors explained the remaining 30 and 12%, respectively. In conclusion, this study has confirmed the substantial impact, which genetic factors have in the etiology of epilepsy. The heritability of epilepsy is high and seems to increase with age.

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