Family size, environment may increase Alzheimer's risk, study says
January 24, 2000
From Medical Correspondent
Web posted at: 5:33 p.m. EST (2233 GMT)
(CNN) -- New research suggests family size and where a person is raised may be linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.
According to a study in the journal Neurology, a patient's childhood environment may set the stage for the degenerative brain disorder.
"Children from very large families are at higher risk, but also, children from very large families are more likely to be from the lower socioeconomic levels," said researcher Victoria Moceri of the University of Washington.
| ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE:|
A poor quality childhood environment could prevent the brain from maturing completely, researchers say.
Researchers examined 800 people who were 60 and older. They found with each additional sibling, the risk of Alzheimer's increased 8 percent.
People growing up with five or more sisters or brothers had a 39 percent greater risk of developing the disease compared to those with less than five siblings.
Also, those who grew up in the suburbs -- where economic status may be better -- were less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those who grew up on a farm or in a city.
"There's a biological reason to suspect early life development would be related to the disease because the areas of the brain that are last to reach maturation are also the first areas to fall into the Alzheimer's disease pathology," Moceri said.
But the Alzheimer's Association is quick to point out that this new study does not mean growing up in a large family causes Alzheimer's. Rather, it adds to a body of evidence that environmental factors, along with genetics, may lead to the development of the disease.
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University of Washington
Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute
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