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Past exposure to sun, skin phenotype, and risk of multiple sclerosis: case-control study

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 16:42 authored by Ingrid van der MeiIngrid van der Mei, Ponsonby, AL, Terry DwyerTerry Dwyer, Christopher BlizzardChristopher Blizzard, Simmons, R, Bruce TaylorBruce Taylor, Butzkueven, H, Kilpatrick, T
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°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.


Publication title

British Medical Journal










Menzies Institute for Medical Research


BMJ Publishing Group

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Disease distribution and transmission (incl. surveillance and response)

Usage metrics

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