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OBJECTIVE: To examine whether past high sun exposure is associated with a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis. DESIGN: Population based case-control study. SETTING: Tasmania, latitudes 41-3 degrees S. PARTICIPANTS: 136 cases with multiple sclerosis and 272 controls randomly drawn from the community and matched on sex and year of birth. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Multiple sclerosis defined by both clinical and magnetic resonance imaging criteria. RESULTS: Higher sun exposure when aged 6-15 years (average 2-3 hours or more a day in summer during weekends and holidays) was associated with a decreased risk of multiple sclerosis (adjusted odds ratio 0.31, 95% confidence interval 0.16 to 0.59). Higher exposure in winter seemed more important than higher exposure in summer. Greater actinic damage was also independently associated with a decreased risk of multiple sclerosis (0.32, 0.11 to 0.88 for grades 4-6 disease). A dose-response relation was observed between multiple sclerosis and decreasing sun exposure when aged 6-15 years and with actinic damage. CONCLUSION: Higher sun exposure during childhood and early adolescence is associated with a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis. Insufficient ultraviolet radiation may therefore influence the development of multiple sclerosis.

Original publication

DOI

10.1136/bmj.327.7410.316

Type

Journal article

Journal

BMJ

Publication Date

09/08/2003

Volume

327

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, Age of Onset, Case-Control Studies, Child, Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation, Environmental Exposure, Humans, Middle Aged, Multiple Sclerosis, Odds Ratio, Phenotype, Photosensitivity Disorders, Risk Factors, Seasons, Sunlight