Catching some rays has been shown to boost vitamin D levels and now researchers say it may also reduce the risk of disease. Higher sun exposure during childhood and early adolescence is associated with a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis, according to the study.
Australian investigators conducted a study in Tasmania, which is located at high latitude and has a high prevalence of multiple sclerosis. Researchers surveyed 136 patients with MS and 272 healthy participants about past sun exposure, measures the participants used to protect against the sun, the use of vitamin D supplements, medical history, and other factors thought to be associated with MS.
Results of the study show higher sun exposure, between ages 6 and 15, and greater skin damage were linked to a decreased risk of MS. Higher exposure in winter seemed more important than higher exposure in summer. For the study, higher exposure was defined as two to three hours or more a day in summer during weekends and holidays. The associations remained the same after adjusting for fair skin and exposure after the onset of disease. Higher exposure was an average of two to three hours or more a day in summer during weekends and holidays.
Previous studies show multiple sclerosis is more common at higher latitudes, which generally have lower levels of ultraviolet radiation. Investigators suggest insufficient ultraviolet radiation or vitamin D, or both, may influence the development of multiple sclerosis.