Killin, L et. al. Environmental risk factors for dementia: a systematic review. BMC Geriatrics. Published 12 October 2016
Dementia risk reduction is a major and growing public health priority. While certain modifiable risk factors for dementia have been identified, there remains a substantial proportion of unexplained risk. There is evidence that environmental risk factors may explain some of this risk. Thus, we present the first comprehensive systematic review of environmental risk factors for dementia.
We searched the PubMed and Web of Science databases from their inception to January 2016, bibliographies of review articles, and articles related to publically available environmental data. Articles were included if they examined the association between an environmental risk factor and dementia. Studies with another outcome (for example, cognition), a physiological measure of the exposure, case studies, animal studies, and studies of nutrition were excluded. Data were extracted from individual studies which were, in turn, appraised for methodological quality. The strength and consistency of the overall evidence for each risk factor identified was assessed.
We screened 4784 studies and included 60 in the review. Risk factors were considered in six categories: air quality, toxic heavy metals, other metals, other trace elements, occupational-related exposures, and miscellaneous environmental factors. Few studies took a life course approach. There is at least moderate evidence implicating the following risk factors: air pollution; aluminium; silicon; selenium; pesticides; vitamin D deficiency; and electric and magnetic fields.
Studies varied widely in size and quality and therefore we must be circumspect in our conclusions. Nevertheless, this extensive review suggests that future research could focus on a short list of environmental risk factors for dementia. Furthermore, further robust, longitudinal studies with repeated measures of environmental exposures are required to confirm these associations.
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