Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

May 02, 2006 09:30 ET

Estimated Number of Canadians with Multiple Sclerosis Re-Examined

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 2, 2006) -

Experts estimate 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians living with MS

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, in consultation with Canadian experts in the epidemiology of MS, has announced that the oft-used "50,000 Canadians with MS" needs to be revised. The MS Society now estimates that there are likely between 55,000 and 75,000 Canadians living with this unpredictable disease. Release of the revised estimate coincides with the start of May, MS Awareness Month.

"The new range reflects the reality that MS is firmly established as a disease of great concern in Canada," says Dr. William J. McIlroy, national medical advisor for the MS Society of Canada. "However, it should also be emphasized that researchers around the world are in agreement that work being done today holds great promise for the future of this disease."

While the revised numbers at first glance may suggest that the risk of MS is increasing in Canada, they may also reflect improvements in diagnostic technology. Compared to even 10 years ago, neurologists have a broader expanse of knowledge to conclusively diagnose a person with MS.

"For example, magnetic resonance imaging technology has enabled neurologists to make a diagnosis of MS earlier in the course of the disease than in the past" says Dr. Christina Wolfson, an epidemiologist from McGill University and one of the experts that took part in the review of previous studies. "The increased estimate of MS in Canada can be partially attributed to the simple fact that doctors are identifying the disease earlier. Also, parallel improvements in treatments and medical care for individuals living with MS have also resulted in many people living with the disease well into old age."

One of the studies examined appeared in the journal Multiple Sclerosis in October 2005. This study, based on individual self reports of MS and not on medically verified cases, stated that the overall weighted estimate of MS prevalence in Canada is 240 per 100,000 individuals. In general prevalence figures higher than 30 cases per 100,000 are considered to be "high". Canada is known for having one of the highest rates of MS in world.

The researchers also provided prevalence information by region: BC - 240 per 100,000; Prairie region - 340 per 100,000; Ontario 230 per 100,000; Quebec - 180 per 100,000; and Atlantic region - 350 per 100,000.

"This study sets the stage for further research to verify these findings and to identify the reasons for the apparent differences between regions," stated Dr. Wolfson.

Meanwhile, people across the country are using the announcement as motivation to step up efforts in the fight against the disease during MS Awareness Month in May:

- The 30th anniversary of the MS Carnation Campaign will take place in the days leading up to Mother's Day weekend. In 280 communities across the country, volunteers will be at malls and other public spaces selling bouquets to promote MS awareness.

- A Parliament Hill presentation to MPs will take place on May 3 prior to Question Period. MPs from all parties will be pinned with carnation boutonnieres.

- The annual MS Bequest Week takes place the week of May 29. Canadians can learn more about financial planning and how to make a lasting legacy in the fight against MS.

- Home hardware retailer, RONA, will be selling paper "Keys to a Cure" at store cash registers across Canada. Proceeds will be donated to the MS Society.

- Chapters of the MS Society will be hosting local events including proclamations at city council and flag raisings.

- The travelling MS education series, Living Well with MS, Medical Research and Hope will be appearing in Grand Prairie, AB., Penticton, BC., Monteregie, QC and North Bay & London, ON.

"Our mission is clear," said Alistair M. Fraser, president and chief executive of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. "We need to raise awareness and end this disease as quickly as possible to ensure these numbers are never increased again."

Please contact your local MS Society of Canada office for information, to get involved or to make a donation. Call 1-800-268-7582 or visit

About multiple sclerosis and the MS Society of Canada

MS is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms vary from person-to-person but include tingling, vision problems and even paralysis. MS can occur at any age but it is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, when people are finishing school, building careers and establishing families. With an estimated 55,000 - 75,000 people living with the disease and three more diagnosed each day, Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. The impact of MS is far-reaching as one in two Canadians knows someone with MS.

The MS Society of Canada is almost entirely self-funded and is the largest per-capita supporter of MS research in the world. The mission of the MS Society is to be a leader in finding a cure for multiple sclerosis and enabling people affected by MS to enhance their quality of life.

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