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In a Science News summary of a July Archives of Neurology article there appears to be a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease among non-smokers. In a study of 12,000 people, it was found that heavy lifetime smokers had the lowest risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is fairly rare in the U.S. When the risk benefits are compared to the increased chance of developing cancer or heart disease it is a silly idea to smoke to avoid Parkinson’s.

Why smokers appear to have a slight edge against developing Parkinson’s disease appears to be related to how nicotine protects neurons that generate dopamine. Dopamine production plays a significant role in determining who develops Parkinson’s and who does not.

Nicotine patches were tested on Parkinson’s patients, but by the time signs of the disease appeared, the patches had no effect in slowing the progression of symptoms for the disease.

Researchers suspect that the explanation for the smoker’s lower percentage of developing Parkinson’s disease may have more to do more with a smoker’s susceptibility to nicotine addiction than the chemical action of nicotine on neurons that generate dopamine. More research is needed to find the relationship between smokers and the lower incidents of Parkinson’s disease.