In order to identify risk factors for the subsequent development of motor neuron disease (MND) we have carried out a case-control study of incident patients in Scotland, identified using the Scottish Motor Neuron Disease Register. A standard questionnaire was given to 103 patients and the same number of community controls matched on a one to one basis using the general practitioner's (GP) age and sex register. Recall bias was minimised by using GP records to verify the subject's report. There was an overall lifetime excess of fractures in patients, odds ratio (OR) = 1.3 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.7-2.5) and this was highest in the 5 years before symptom onset (OR = 15, 95% CI, 3.3-654). There was no association with non-fracture trauma but the OR for a manual occupation in patients was 2.6 (95% CI, 1.1-6.3). Both occupational exposure to lead (OR = 5.7, 95% CI, 1.6-30) and solvents/chemicals (OR = 3.3, 95% CI 1.3-10) were significantly more common in patients. No consistent association was found between MND and factors reflecting socioeconomic deprivation in childhood; childhood infections or social class. Our results identify a number of different factors which may contribute to the aetiology of MND.
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