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The ages of onset in multiple sclerosis cases span more than 7 decades. Data are presented for affected relative pairs from a Canadian population base of 30,000 multiple sclerosis index cases (1993-2008). The effects of genetic sharing, parent of origin, intergenerational versus collinear differences, and gender on the ages of onset were evaluated in the following concordant pairs: monozygotic twins (n = 29), dizygotic twins (n = 10), siblings (n = 614), first cousins (n = 405), half siblings (n = 29), parent/child (n = 285), and aunt/uncle/niece/nephew (avunculars) (n = 289). Fisher's z test assessed intraclass correlation (r) for ages of onset. Correlations for monozygotic twins, dizygotic twins, full siblings, and first cousins were 0.60, 0.54, 0.20, and 0.10, respectively. Dizygotic twins resembled monozygotic twins more than siblings. The age-of-onset correlation for maternal half siblings (r = 0.37) was higher than that for paternal half siblings (r = 0.26), consistent with other observations suggesting an intrauterine environmental effect on multiple sclerosis risk. Intergenerational comparisons are complicated by substantial increases of multiple sclerosis incidence over time. Genetic loading (familial vs. sporadic cases) did not generally influence the age of onset, but correlation of age of onset in multiple sclerosis relative pairs was proportional to genetic sharing. A maternal parent-of-origin effect on the age of onset in collinear generations was suggested.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Epidemiol

Publication Date





289 - 296


Adult, Age of Onset, British Columbia, Diseases in Twins, Family, Female, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Male, Multiple Sclerosis, Parents, Pedigree, Risk Factors, Siblings, Time Factors, Twins, Twins, Dizygotic, Twins, Monozygotic