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Sunshine May Protect Against MS

Exposure when young may reduce risk of the disease, study finds

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

FRIDAY, Aug. 8, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- People who receive more sun exposure during their childhood and adolescence may have a reduced risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), says a study in this week's issue of the British Medical Journal.

The study notes that multiple sclerosis is more common at higher latitudes, which generally have lower ultraviolet radiation levels.

Researchers surveyed 136 people with MS and 272 control subjects who didn't have the disease. They all lived in Tasmania, which is located at a high latitude and has a high prevalence of MS.

The study participants were asked about their past sun exposure, sun-protection measures, use of vitamin D supplements, medical history and other factors believed to be associated with MS. Their skin damage and skin color were also assessed.

The researchers found that higher sun exposure when aged 6 to 15 years old (average two to three hours or more a day in summer and during weekends and holidays) and greater skin damage were associated with a decreased risk of MS.

The study also found that higher sun exposure in winter seemed more important than higher sun exposure in summer. The association between sun exposure and reduced risk of MS persisted after the researchers adjusted for fair skin and sun exposure after onset of MS.

Insufficient amounts of either vitamin D or ultraviolet radiation, or both, may influence development of MS, the study authors suggest.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about multiple sclerosis.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, news release, Aug. 8, 2003
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