Global variation in the incidence of multiple sclerosis (MS) is generally ascribed to differences in genetic and environmental risk factors. Here we investigate temporal trends in the incidence of MS and related disorders in British Columbia, Canada, from 1986 to 2010, focusing particularly on the Asian ethnic subpopulation.
A longitudinal database was screened to identify newly diagnosed cases of MS and related disorders, including neuromyelitis optica and clinically isolated syndromes. Age-standardized, sex-specific mean annual incidence was calculated for the Asian and non-Asian population of British Columbia for 5-year intervals from 1986 to 2010. Temporal changes and cohort differences in incidence rates and demographic characteristics were evaluated.
During this period, the incidence of MS and related disorders in the non-Asian population remained relatively unchanged, from 10.41 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 9.87-10.97) to 9.91 (95% CI: 9.46-10.39) per 100,000 (p=0.167). In contrast, incidence in the Asian population doubled during the same period. This increase was driven by a precipitous rise in the incidence of MS in females from 0.71 (95% CI: 0.01-1.50) to 2.08 (95% CI: 1.43-2.91) per 100,000 (p=0.004), including both Canadian-born and immigrant Asians. The incidence of neuromyelitis optica did not change significantly during this period.
The incidence of MS may be increasing among females in the Asian ethnic population of British Columbia.