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Parkinson's More Common in Northeast, Midwest

And far more likely to strike whites than blacks, researchers find

FRIDAY, Jan. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The largest study of its kind finds that Parkinson's disease in the United States is more common in the Midwest and Northeast, and that whites and Hispanics are twice as likely to develop the disease as blacks and Asians.

The findings, based on an analysis of data from 36 million Medicare recipients, are the first to take a significant look at Parkinson's disease and its relationship to geographic location and ethnicity.

"Finding clusters in the Midwest and the Northeast is particularly exciting," study lead author Dr. Allison Wright Willis, assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a news release. "These are the two regions of the country most involved in metal processing and agriculture, and chemicals used in these fields are the strongest potential environmental risk factors for Parkinson's disease that we've identified so far."

The study, which was published online Jan. 15 in the journal Neuroepidemiology, looked specifically at more than 450,000 cases of Parkinson's disease from 1995 and from 2000 to 2005.

Why are whites and Hispanics more vulnerable? "We are going to try to learn more about why this is the case," Willis stated in the news release. "It could be that those with Asian or African ancestry have genes that help protect them from exposure to environmental factors that cause Parkinson's disease, or they may have fewer exposures to those factors."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about Parkinson's disease.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, news release, Jan. 27, 2010

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