Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Cancer in patients with motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease: record linkage studies
  1. Alessandro F Fois1,
  2. Clare J Wotton1,
  3. David Yeates1,
  4. Martin R Turner2,
  5. Michael J Goldacre1
  1. 1Unit of Health-Care Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Headington, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Department of Clinical Neurology, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor M J Goldacre, Unit of Health-Care Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Old Road, Oxford, UK; michael.goldacre{at}


Objective To determine the risk of cancer before and after the diagnosis of motor neuron disease (MND), multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson's disease (PD).

Methods Analysis of statistical database of linked statistical abstracts of hospital and mortality data in an area in southern England.

Results Only people with PD showed a significant difference in the overall incidence of cancer compared with controls (rate ratio (RR) 0.76, 95% CIs 0.70 to 0.82 before PD; RR 0.61, 0.53 to 0.70, after PD). RRs were close to 1 for cancer in patients after MND (0.98, 0.75 to 1.26) and after MS (0.96, 0.83 to 1.09). There were high rate ratios for malignant brain cancer (7.4, 2.4 to 17.5) and Hodgkin's lymphoma (5.3, 1.1 to 15.6) in patients diagnosed with MND after cancer. In people with MS, malignant brain cancer also showed an increased RR both before hospital admission with a diagnosis of MS (3.2, 1.1 to 7.6) and after (2.4, 1.2 to 4.5). In people with PD, several specific cancers showed significantly and substantially reduced RRs for cancer, notably smoking related cancers, including lung cancer (0.5, 0.4 to 0.7, before PD; 0.5, 0.4 to 0.8, after PD) but also cancers that are not strongly smoking related, including colon cancer (0.7, 0.6 to 0.9, before PD; 0.5, 0.4 to 0.8, after PD).

Conclusions People with MND, or MS, do not have an altered risk of cancer overall. There may sometimes be misdiagnosis between MND or MS and brain tumours. PD carries a reduced risk of cancer overall, of some smoking related cancers and of some cancers that are not smoking related.

  • Epidemiology
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • parkinson's disease

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding English NIHR Co-ordinating Centre for Research Capacity Development.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.