Environmental risk factors for Parkinson's disease

Gartner, Coral Elizabeth (2006) Environmental risk factors for Parkinson's disease. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive, degenerative, neurological disease. The progressive disability associated with PD results in substantial burdens for those with the condition, their families and society in terms of increased health resource use, earnings loss of affected individuals and family caregivers, poorer quality of life, caregiver burden, disrupted family relationships, decreased social and leisure activities, and deteriorating emotional well-being. Currently, no cure is available and the efficacy of available treatments, such as medication and surgical interventions, decreases with longer duration of the disease. Whilst the cause of PD is unknown, genetic and environmental factors are believed to contribute to its aetiology. Descriptive and analytical epidemiological studies have been conducted in a number of countries in an effort to elucidate the cause, or causes, of PD. Rural residency, farming, well water consumption, pesticide exposure, metals and solvents have been implicated as potential risk factors for PD in some previous epidemiological studies. However, there is substantial disagreement between the results of existing studies. Therefore, the role of environmental exposures in the aetiology of PD remains unclear.

The main component of this thesis consists of a case-control study that assessed the contribution of environmental exposures to the risk of developing PD. An existing, previously unanalysed, dataset from a local case-control study was analysed to inform the design of the new case-control study. The analysis results suggested that regular exposure to pesticides and head injury were important risk factors for PD. However, due to the substantial limitations of this existing study, further confirmation of these results was desirable with a more robustly designed epidemiological study. A new exposure measurement instrument (a structured interviewer-delivered questionnaire) was developed for the new case-control study to obtain data on demographic, lifestyle, environmental and medical factors. Prior to its use in the case-control study, the questionnaire was assessed for test-retest repeatability in a series of 32 PD cases and 29 healthy sex-, age- and residential suburb-matched electoral roll controls. High repeatability was demonstrated for lifestyle exposures, such as smoking and coffee/tea consumption (kappas 0.70-1.00). The majority of environmental exposures, including use of pesticides, solvents and exposure to metal dusts and fumes, also showed high repeatability (kappas &gt0.78).

A consecutive series of 163 PD case participants was recruited from a neurology clinic in Brisbane. One hundred and fifty-one (151) control participants were randomly selected from the Australian Commonwealth Electoral Roll and individually matched to the PD cases on age (± 2 years), sex and current residential suburb. Participants ranged in age from 40-89 years (mean age 67 years). Exposure data were collected in face-to-face interviews. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated using conditional logistic regression for matched sets in SAS version 9.1. Consistent with previous studies, ever having been a regular smoker or coffee drinker was inversely associated with PD with dose-response relationships evident for packyears smoked and number of cups of coffee drunk per day. Passive smoking from ever having lived with a smoker or worked in a smoky workplace was also inversely related to PD. Ever having been a regular tea drinker was associated with decreased odds of PD. Hobby gardening was inversely associated with PD. However, use of fungicides in the home garden or occupationally was associated with increased odds of PD. Exposure to welding fumes, cleaning solvents, or thinners occupationally was associated with increased odds of PD. Ever having resided in a rural or remote area was inversely associated with PD. Ever having resided on a farm was only associated with moderately increased odds of PD. Whilst the current study's results suggest that environmental exposures on their own are only modest contributors to overall PD risk, the possibility that interaction with genetic factors may additively or synergistically increase risk should be considered.

The results of this research support the theory that PD has a multifactorial aetiology and that environmental exposures are some of a number of factors to contribute to PD risk. There was also evidence of interaction between some factors (eg smoking and welding) to moderate PD risk.

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ID Code: 16393
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Battistutta, Diana, Dunne, Michael, Mellick, George, & Silburn, Peter
Keywords: Parkinson’s disease, aetiology, risk factors, environmental exposures, epidemiology, case-control study, test-retest repeatability, exposure assessment, questionnaire, pesticides, solvents, metals, welding, rural residency, groundwater, agriculture, smoking, tobacco, nicotine, coffee, caffeine, tea, alcohol
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Department: Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Coral Elizabeth Gartner
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:02
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2016 03:15

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