Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Sunshine may shield children, young adults from MS


 News Release 8-Dec-2021
Exposure to UV rays boost vitamin D, may protect against auto-immune disease
Peer-Reviewed Publication
University of California - San Francisco


Living in sunny locations and spending time outdoors may raise the risk for skin cancer, but a new study led by UC San Francisco and the Australian National University shows that in children and young adults, sun exposure may protect against multiple sclerosis. The study follows previous work by other researchers that has demonstrated an association between increased ultraviolet exposure in childhood and lower odds of adult MS.


 In questionnaires filled in by participants with MS or their parents, 19 percent stated that they spent less than 30 minutes daily outdoors during the previous summer, compared to 6 percent of those who did not have MS.  When the researchers adjusted for MS risks, like smoking and female sex, they found that the participants who spent an average of 30 minutes to one hour outdoors daily had a 52 percent lower chance of MS, compared to those who spent an average of less than 30 minutes outdoors daily.

“Sun exposure is known to boost vitamin D levels,” said co-senior author Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, PhD, professor in the UCSF Department of Neurology and of the Weill Institute for Neurosciences. “It also stimulates immune cells in the skin that have a protective role in diseases such as MS. Vitamin D may also change the biological function of the immune cells and, as such, play a role in protecting against autoimmune diseases.”


Fortunately, the use of sunscreen does not appear to lessen the therapeutic effects of sunlight in warding off MS, noted Waubant, who is also director of the UCSF Regional Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Center. Clinical trials are needed to determine if “increasing sun exposure or vitamin D supplementation can prevent the development of MS or alter disease course post-diagnosis,” she said. Meanwhile, “advising regular time in the sun of at least 30 minutes daily especially during summer, using sun protection as needed, especially for first degree relatives of MS patients, may be a worthwhile intervention to reduce the incidence of MS.”

Limited sun exposure and/or low levels of vitamin D have been associated with other conditions. These include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, as well as schizophrenia and other auto-immune diseases like Type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease and lupus. 


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