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Heredity Plays Key Role in Risk of Disc Degeneration

Despite popular wisdom, occupation, smoking and body weight not significant

FRIDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to the common view that disc degeneration is a result of aging and wear and tear, heredity plays a significant role in the risk of lumbar degeneration, researchers report in the January issue of The Spine Journal.

Michele C. Battie, Ph.D., of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues analyzed data from the Twin Spine Study, which has collected data since 1991, primarily from cohorts in Canada, Finland and the United States.

The influence of heredity on disc degeneration is substantial and genes associated with this phenomenon have been identified, the authors report. While smoking is associated with an increased risk of disc degeneration, the effect is small, and the investigators found no evidence of increased risk due to exposure to whole-body vibration. Body weight and muscle strength appear to have a modest impact, and routine loading may even be beneficial, the researchers note.

"Disc degeneration is now considered a condition that is genetically determined in large part, with environmental factors, although elusive, also playing an important role," the authors write. "Most of the specific environmental factors once thought to be the primary risk factors for disc degeneration appear to have very modest effects, if any. This advance in the understanding of disc degeneration provides a foundation from which to develop new hypotheses and more fruitful research to further elucidate the etiology of disc degeneration."

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