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Ultraviolet radiation and autoimmune disease: insights from epidemiological research

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 16:53 authored by Ponsonby, AL, McMichael, A, Ingrid van der MeiIngrid van der Mei
This review examines the epidemiological evidence that suggests ultraviolet radiation (UVR) may play a protective role in three autoimmune diseases: multiple sclerosis, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and rheumatoid arthritis. To date, most of the information has accumulated from population studies that have studied the relationship between geography or climate and autoimmune disease prevalence. An interesting gradient of increasing prevalence with increasing latitude has been observed for at least two of the three diseases. This is most evident for multiple sclerosis, but a similar gradient has been shown for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in Europe and North America. Seasonal influences on both disease incidence and clinical course and, more recently, analytical studies at the individual level have provided further support for a possible protective role for UVR in some of these diseases but the data are not conclusive. Organ-specific autoimmune diseases involve Th1 cell-mediated immune processes. Recent work in photoimmunology has shown ultraviolet B (UVB) can specifically attenuate these processes through several mechanisms which we discuss. In particular, the possible contribution of an UVR-induced increase in serum vitamin D (1,25(OH)2D3) levels in the beneficial immunomodulation of these diseases is discussed. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


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Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Elsevier Ireland Ltd

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Preventive medicine

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