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Rothwell and Charlton1 have suggested that Scottish ancestry is associated with an increased susceptibility to multiple sclerosis. They make the novel observation that a higher than expected proportion of patients with multiple sclerosis had Scottish surnames as defined by the prefix Mc or Mac. They quote that the percentage of the population in the Highlands and Islands with a surname of Mc or Mac is 22.6%. They then suggest that this is the percentage with Mc or Mac in Orkney and Shetland but these islands are not part of the Highlands and Islands. In Orkney and Shetland, in fact, only 3.5% of the population have a surname beginning with Mc or Mac, which is much lower than the percentage in north east Scotland—namely 7.5%.
Rothwell and Charlton do make the point, however, that an increase in the proportion of surnames prefixed with Mc or Mac with latitude within Scotland is not associated with an increase in the prevalence of multiple sclerosis. Indeed this is borne out by the prevalence figure for the Western Isles of Scotland2 of only 81 per 100 000, which is one of the lowest prevalence rates found in the United Kingdom and yet these islands have the highest percentage of Scottish surnames.
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