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HSC Winnipeg Physician Authors Study That Finds People with MS at Increased Risk of Bladder Cancer

Study published in U.S. medical journal finds people living with MS are 72 per cent more likely to get this form of cancer

A new study authored by the medical director of HSC Winnipeg’s Multiple Sclerosis Clinic finds that those living with MS are at slightly higher risk of developing bladder cancer and has been published in the latest online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study, led by Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie, concluded that people living with MS are 72 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer in their lifetime. The study also found individuals living with MS are not at higher risk of getting breast and colorectal cancer, two of the other most prevalent forms of cancers amongst people living with MS.

“The higher incidence of bladder cancer may reflect the fact that people with MS are more likely to have ever smoked, are more likely to have indwelling catheters that can cause irritation and inflammation and are more likely to have urinary tract infections,” said Marrie, noting the research will hopefully encourage others to probe further. “Anytime we answer one set of questions, we generate more. This kind of study cannot answer why the risk is increased, but it will hopefully prompt others to look at that.”

Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie

Marrie’s study, supported by the MS Society of Canada, is believed to be the largest of its kind. Her study reviewed the de-identified health records of nearly 54,000 Canadians living with MS and compared them to 277,000 others who do not have the disease. Marrie used cancer registries to estimate the incidence of breast, colorectal, bladder and 12 other cancers amongst people in the study, then adjusted for factors like sex, education and socioeconomic status before making her conclusions.

“Comorbidities are common in people with MS and the information Dr. Marrie has been able to collect in this study is integral to helping us better understand how other diseases, like cancer, affect people with MS,” said Pamela Valentine, president and CEO of the MS Society of Canada. “Our organization is proud to support cutting-edge research like this, which will help inform treatment and care for people living with MS.”

In addition to her work at HSC Winnipeg, Marrie is also a professor of medicine and community health sciences at the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine. Her faculty colleague, Dr. Alyson Mahar, is a co-author of the study.

“Dr. Marrie and Dr. Mahar’s research focusing on the epidemiology of MS, including the impact of comorbid conditions such as cancer on outcomes, has a vital role to play for clinicians treating people with this progressive disease, and hopefully can lead to better outcomes,” said Dr. Brian Postl, dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

Recently named incoming vice-chair of the Scientific Steering Committee of the International Progressive MS Alliance, she is also the scientific director of the NARCOMS MS Patient Registry and chair of the Medical Advisory Committee for the MS Society of Canada.

To view the study, go online to:

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