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Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Sep;113(9):1234-8.

The role of early life environmental risk factors in Parkinson disease: what is the evidence?

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Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Parkinson disease (PD) is of unknown but presumably multifactorial etiology. Neuropathologic studies and animal models show that exposure to environmental neurotoxicants can determine progressive damage in the substantia nigra many years before the onset of clinical parkinsonism. Therefore, PD, like other neurologic diseases related to aging, may be determined by exposures present in the environment early during the life span or even during pregnancy. Recent epidemiologic studies have focused on the possible role of environmental risk factors present during adult life or aging. Smoking and coffee drinking have consistently been identified to have protective associations, whereas roles of other risk factors such as pesticide and infections have been reported in some studies but not replicated in others. Both genetic inheritance and sharing of common environment in the same family explain the increased risk of PD of relatives of PD cases compared with relatives of controls in familial aggregation studies. Much evidence indicates that risk factors that have a long latency or a slow effect could be important for late-onset PD. Further epidemiologic studies are warranted in this area.

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