Follow-up study of risk factors in progressive supranuclear palsy

L I Golbe, R S Rubin, R P Cody, J M Belsh, R C Duvoisin, C Grosmann, F E Lepore, M H Mark, R C Sachdeo, J I Sage, T R Zimmerman
Neurology 1996, 47 (1): 148-54
The cause of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is not known and has been little studied. The one previous controlled epidemiologic survey, performed at our center in 1986, found small-town experience and greater educational attainment as PSP risks, but, in retrospect, these results may have been produced by ascertainment bias. Since that time, several anecdotal reports have implicated heredity and various environmental exposures in the cause of some cases of PSP. To clarify the results of the previous study and to evaluate the more recently implicated candidate factors in a controlled fashion, we mailed a validated 69-item questionnaire to 91 personally examined patients with PSP and 104 unmatched controls with other neurologic conditions for which they had been referred to our tertiary neurologic center. We were able to match 75 subjects from each group by year of birth, sex, and race and subjected them to a separate matched-pair analysis. We allowed surrogates to supply any or all of the responses. Questions concerned hydrocarbon, pesticide, and herbicide exposure; urban/rural living; auto repair and other occupations; head trauma; educational attainment; maternal age; and family history of PSP, parkinsonism, dementia, and other neurologic conditions. A statistically significant finding was that patients with PSP were less likely to have completed at least 12 years of school (matched odds ratio = 0.35, 95% CI = 0.12-0.95, p = 0.022; unmatched odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI = 0.21-0.89, p = 0.020). We hypothesize that this result may be a proxy for poor early-life nutrition or for occupational or residential exposure to an as-yet unsuspected toxin. Future studies should examine these potential risk factors in PSP.

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