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Study Examines Pesticide, Narcolepsy Link

Study authors suggest environmental exposures may cause narcolepsy

FRIDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Environmental exposures during the first two decades of life may cause narcolepsy in individuals who are already genetically predisposed to the disease, according to the authors of a study in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

Will Longstreth, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues reviewed epidemiologic studies on narcolepsy. They report that the prevalence of narcolepsy with cataplexy is between 25 and 50 per 100,000 people. While numerous studies in the literature have implicated body mass index, immune response and stressful life events as potential causes of narcolepsy, the researchers suggest these may merely be consequences.

Citing neurotoxins such as heavy metals, pesticides and solvents as potential culprits, the researchers call for a search to identify the specific exposures occurring during the first two decades of life that may cause narcolepsy because the identification of modifiable risk factors may help stave off the disease.

"As with other diseases characterized by selective cell loss, such as Parkinson disease or type 1 diabetes mellitus, narcolepsy is likely caused by environmental exposures before the age of onset in genetically susceptible individuals," the study authors conclude.

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