To investigate the causal relevance of current tobacco smoking for the risk of Parkinson disease (PD).
We compared the risks of death from PD with smoking habits in 30,000 male doctors in the British Doctors cohort study in 1951 and in survivors who had been resurveyed periodically for 5 decades. Cause-specific mortality was monitored for 65 years and included 283 deaths from PD. The relative risks (RRs) of PD (and 95% confidence intervals [CIs]) were estimated using Cox models for smoking habits (smoking status, amount smoked, and years since quitting) at baseline or updated habits at resurvey.
The prevalence of current smoking declined progressively during follow-up from 67% to 8% between 1951 and 1998. The crude rates of PD death were lower in current smokers than in never smokers at baseline (30 vs 46/100,000 persons-years). After adjustment for age at risk, current smokers at baseline had a 30% lower risk of PD (RR 0.71; 95% CI 0.60–0.84), and continuing smokers classified using updated smoking habits at resurvey had a 40% lower risk (RR 0.60; 95% CI 0.46–0.77) of PD compared with never smokers. The risks of PD were inversely associated with the amount of tobacco smoked. The protective effect of current smoking vs never smoking for PD was attenuated by increasing duration since quitting smoking.
In contrast to previous suggestions, the present report demonstrates a causally protective effect of current smoking on the risk of PD, which may provide insights into the etiology of PD.