The next day (2/18/11), I was made aware of new articles discussing research that shows that sun exposure and higher levels of Vitamin D may have a role in preventing MS. We have known for some time that people living closer to the equator have a lower MS incedence rate and there have been theories that this has something to do with sun exposure and vitamin D levels, but a new study from Australia is out which expands on this theory.
One article states, "Higher vitamin D levels and exposure to sunlight appear to be independently protective against multiple sclerosis." A study done in Australia, found that "sun exposure and vitamin D levels each predicted disease risk." Previous studies had linked low vitamin D levels with a higher risk for MS. So, apparently, I should have spent more time outside during my youth and I should've worn less sunscreen. On the one hand, you increase your risk of developing skin cancer, but on the other hand you may increase your risk of developing MS. The study found that "people with the most evidence of skin damage from sun exposure were about 60% less likely to develop MS symptoms than people with the least sun damage." Of course, the article warns against too much sun exposure due to the increased risk of skin cancer.
I felt like I got a decent amount of sun growing up - I remember many summer days spent at the pool, my family had a boat for a time and we spent quite a few weekends out on the lake. Back then, I don't remember caring too much about applying sun screen either. My sun exposure lessened as I grew older - between school, work, volleyball, and other obligations, I am sure that I no longer get as much sun exposure and I am much more conscientiuos about wearing sun screen. Maybe it is time to get outside more and leave the sunscreen at home. Since I have already been diagnosed, it may not help, but it certainly cannot hurt. In addition, I intend to take Vitamin D supplements - again it cannot hurt to get a little more D (unless I develop kidney stones, but I will keep my intake at a reasonable level).
While, this is not a cure, it does appear that we have discovered one way to, possibly, lower the incidence rate of MS. One thing is for sure, when I have children, they will definitely be spending a lot of time in the sun!
For more articles/information regarding this topic, go to:
More sun and vitamin D may prevent MS risk
MS Less Likely With Plenty of Sun, Vitamin D
Vitamin D: The Multiple Sclerosis Connection
NMSS - News Detail
Now, the negative side to the sun (other than skin cancer). Other new research suggests that warm weather may hurt cognitive skills in those with MS; "people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may find it harder to learn, remember or process information on warmer days of the year." Other studies have linked warmer weather to more disease activity and we know that raising the core temperature of an MS patient can often worsen symptoms, but this is the first reasearch to focus on cognitive functioning. A press release states that "40 people with MS and 40 people without MS were given tests that measured learning, memory and the speed at which they processed information." The MS patients also underwent brain scans and daily temperatures on test days were also recorded. "The study found that people with MS scored 70 percent better on thinking tests during cooler days compared to warmer days of the year. There was no link between thinking test scores and temperature for those without MS."
There is always good news and bad I guess. Interesting stuff though.
My next post (which may need to be broken down into 2 to 4 posts) will focus on my 2/17/11 post's 7th topic of discussion: Future Therapies: Loquinimod (currently in phase 3), Teriflunamide (currently in phase 3), BG-12 (currently in phase 2), and Estriol (currently in phase 2). No other information was given about these four therapies, so I will do some research and report back. Campath: consists of 5 infusions per year, has had an impressive phase 3, studies showing that it is 75% better than Rebif. Rituximab is anti-B white blood cells and consists of infusions every 6 months; studies showing 50% reduction in exacerbation rate. Vaccination Strategies (essentially allergy shots - there are theories that MS is like an allergic reaction) include Tovaxin and Apitope; these essentially desensitize the brain attack.