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Sun exposure, weight may play roles in MS onset

10/12/2015

A new study of people with multiple sclerosis found that those who spent time in the sun every day during the summer as teens developed the disease later than those reporting not spending time in the sun every day. The authors also found that people who were overweight at age 20 developed the disease earlier than those who were average weight or underweight.  

For the study, 1,161 people with MS in Denmark filled out questionnaires and gave blood samples. They were placed into two groups based on their sun habits during their teenage years: those who spent time in the sun every day and those who did not spend time in the sun every day. They were also asked about their use of vitamin D supplements during their teenage years and how much fatty fish they ate at age 20.

The people who spent time in the sun every day had an average onset of MS that was 1.9 years later than those who did not spend time in the sun every day. A total of 88 percent of the participants were in the sun every day group. They developed MS at an average age of 32.9, compared to 31 for those who were not in the sun every day. Those who were overweight at age 20 developed the disease an average of 1.6 years earlier than those who were average weight and 3.1 years earlier than those who were underweight. Eighteen percent of the participants were overweight; they developed the disease at an average age of 31.2.

“It appears that both UVB rays from sunlight and vitamin D could be associated with a delayed onset of MS,” said study author Dr. Julie Hejgaard Laursen, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. “However, it’s possible that other outdoor factors play a role, and these still have to be identified.”

The study was published in online issue of Neurology.



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