August 22nd, 2011
By: Amanda Gardner
The higher a person’s vitamin D levels, the higher the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, finds new research.
But the study, appearing in the Aug. 15 issue of the Archives of Dermatology, stops short of saying that high vitamin D levels might actually cause these types of cancer, the most common malignancies in the United States.
And because ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure is necessary for vitamin D production in the body, it might simply mean that people with more sun exposure tend to develop more non-melanoma skin cancers. It’s unclear whether it’s the damage from UV rays that accounts for the risk, or rising vitamin D levels that accompany exposure to the rays.
“This adds to the murky water [surrounding the relationship between vitamin D and skin cancer],” said Dr. Vijay Trisal, assistant professor of surgical oncology at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. “Is it vitamin D or sun exposure? The two go hand-in-hand.”
Other scientists have investigated a possible relationship between vitamin D and skin cancer, but so far the results have been limited and conflicting.
One study suggested that higher vitamin D levels might actually protect against skin cancer. This could be because vitamin D may inhibit a pathway involved in cancer, said Dr. Melody Eide, a dermatologist with Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and lead author of the current study.
But two other studies had results suggesting the opposite.
Eide and colleagues based their findings on 3,223 mostly female, white patients in a Detroit health maintenance organization who had visited a doctor either because they had osteoporosis or low bone density.
Many more patients (2,257) had too-low levels of vitamin D than had adequate levels (966).
Over a follow-up period of almost 10 years, 163 participants developed basal cell carcinoma, 49 developed squamous cell carcinoma, and 28 developed both.
Those with vitamin D levels above a certain threshold had a 70 percent greater risk of developing one of these cancers. (That threshold was 15 nanograms per milliliter; people with less than that were considered deficient in vitamin D.)
People with higher vitamin D levels also tended to develop their skin cancer on parts of the body not typically exposed to sunlight, like the arms and legs, but that finding was not statistically significant, the researchers reported.
At this research stage, it’s difficult to untangle the possible mechanisms behind this.
“It’s a triangular relationship between UV light with the production of Vitamin D and the induction of skin cancer,” Eide said. “That makes it difficult to know.”
The study didn’t take into account lifetime sun exposure, family history of skin cancer, vitamin D supplementation, exercise, smoking or several other factors that might have influenced the outcome of the study. In addition, the study authors noted that it was “highly likely” that the participants’ exposure to sunlight might have skewed the results.
“We need some measure of lifetime cumulative UV exposure, which is very difficult to measure,” Eide said. “We tend to move around a lot; people go on vacations. There could be critical windows during our life.”
April 11th, 2011
By: Grace Gold
When we first covered the controversy surrounding model Gisele Bündchen’s use of the word “poison” to describe sunscreen (a term her publicist later refuted as an incorrect translation), StyleList was inundated with reader comments that surprisingly shared a similar suspicion about the safety of chemicals in common sunscreens.
Combine that with the results of a study published last year that sparked fears of a cancerous relationship between a form of vitamin A found in sunscreen formulations and sun exposure, and it’s no wonder people are concerned.
That got us thinking: Is there such a thing as natural sunscreen? Why do brands even use chemicals to begin with, and should consumers be wary of any of them? And what is the status on the Food and Drug Administration’s investigation into the retinyl palmitate scare?
As far as natural sunscreens go, there is disagreement between the medical and holistic communities about what constitutes the word “natural.”
On one hand, American Board of Dermatology President Dr. Robert T. Brodell says there is no such thing as a natural sunscreen.
“None of the products that protect the skin significantly would be considered ‘natural,’” Brodell tells StyleList. “The closest thing would be ‘chemical-free’ sunscreens. The white paste you see on a lifeguard’s nose in the summer is zinc oxide… the classic example,” adds the Ohio dermatologist.
Defined as an “inorganic compound” because it’s formed by chemical bonds that lack a carbon molecule, zinc oxide, and its common cousin titanium dioxide, are earth minerals often found as a physical block in sunscreen. Dermatologists consider both compounds to be safely proven ways of blocking both harmful UVA and UVB sunrays.
Yet organic expert and “The Green Beauty Guide” author Julie Gabriel, says that she is willing to consider an element like zinc oxide as natural, since it’s a mineral.
“The absence of a natural sunscreen is a fairy tale of the conventional beauty industry. I’ve been using a basic handmade blend of beeswax, calendula oil, zinc oxide, green tea and vitamin E during my ski weekends in very high altitudes of 2,500 meters in Davos, Switzerland,” Gabriel tells StyleList.
“I’ve had no sun damage, no tan, no marks, nothing,” says Gabriel, who adds that she came up with the concoction by mixing a zinc oxide-containing diaper balm with the marigold-colored calendula plant to add a glowy finish.
If making your own blend, Gabriel recommends purchasing zinc oxide from either Ingredients to Die For or Texas Natural Supply. The organic expert says she has worked with both retailers, and considers them top, trustworthy sources.
With such nonirritating, noncontroversial sunblocks available, one wonders why brands even go the route of chemical blends. Experts say it’s primarily because consumers find that physical blocks can feel heavy, smell strongly, and cast an unnatural pale tint to skin, especially on deeper skin tones.
“Because zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sit on the skin’s surface without being absorbed, they are nonirritating and nonallergenic. But this is also the reason why natural sunscreens require a lot more rubbing in, and advance application time to bind with the skin to be effective,” says New York State Society for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery President, Dr. David Bank.
Some brands turn to chemicals for lighter and seemingly more elegant formulas, which protect skin by first interacting with UV light, and then undergoing a chemical reaction that blocks out dangerous sunrays.
These chemicals are often of the multisyllabic, impossible-to-pronounce variety, with common examples being avobenzone, benzophenonone, triethanolamine, and the easier to say, though no less mired in controversy, ingredient of PABA.
Mexoryl, which enjoyed a highly anticipated debut on the US market after tremendous success in Europe, is gaining recognition as a favored chemical sunscreen. Experts attribute the ingredient’s popularity to its light, easily absorbed texture, nearly non-existent scent and superior block of both UVA and UVB rays.
The newest chemical sunscreens that are currently pending FDA approval are Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M, which offer a trio of powerful actions, including absorbing, reflecting and scattering ultraviolet rays. They’re both very naturally stable, which makes for a more dependable and long-lasting application, shares Bank.
And that means greater protection against the signs of aging.
“These products (chemical ingredients) also protect against the long-term problems associated with sun exposure, including wrinkling, brown spots, yellowing and thickening of the skin, precancers and skin cancers. The weight of the evidence strongly favors routine use of sunscreens, whether chemical or physical,” Brodell strongly advises.
However, it’s what happens during the chemical transformation phase that causes some to speculate on the overall safety of the active ingredients. It’s here where the heart of the chemical sunscreen controversy exists.
“Triethanolamine has been identified as an active in promoting the release of free radicals in our bodies once the UVA and UVB radiations saturate our skin,” says Los Angeles dermatologist, Dr. Ava Shamban, author of “Heal Your Skin.”
Free radicals are considered by many in the beauty industry to be volatile molecules that react explosively and cause the kind of tissue damage that leads to aging and disease.
Another concern with chemical sunscreens is the potential for skin sensitivity issues in those who are suspeptible.
“The chemical most responsible for an allergic reaction to sunscreen is oxybenzone, which is also one of the most commonly used chemicals in broad-spectrum sunscreen,” explains Maryland dermatologist, Dr. Noelle Sherber. “I always tell my patients with sensitive skin to avoid it, because it’s the most common culprit of redness, itchiness and bumps.”
But oxybenzone isn’t just a problem for those who have sensitive skin. Bank says it’s an ingredient that has long been questioned for its safety.
“Oxybenzone is of most concern to many scientists. In a study by the Center for Disease Control, it was proven to be absorbed into the blood stream systemically, and excreted in the urine of 97 percent of study participants. More studies are needed to give us a comprehensive understanding of how these chemicals behave in skin cells,” says Bank.
Fortunately, most experts agree that the new technology found in micronized mineral sunscreen is both safer and more enjoyable to apply and wear. These nano particles block rays with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, yet apply less white and with a sheerer finish than their traditional forms. Protection works by bouncing sun radiation waves off skin.
You should especially consider micronized mineral sunscreen for babies and children, says Sherber.
“The amount of surface area compared to body mass is very different between a baby and an adult. Whatever you apply all over a baby’s skin will be absorbed more, because they have so much more skin than body mass. For example, a topical eczema-treatment cream can be given to adults without a problem, but the active ingredients are absorbed at such a high rate by children, that it can actually stunt their growth,” says Sherber.
While the collective consensus between the natural and dermatology worlds seems to skew toward physical blocks, the debate on the safety of retinyl palmitate in sunscreen has moved little since the Environmental Working Group raised concerns this past year over an FDA study that showed an increase in cancer cells of mice exposed to sunlight while wearing a retinyl palmitate-containing cream.
“Retinols and retinoids in general have been a nighttime preparation, as it makes the skin sun sensitive. Some manufacturers believed that since retinols are antioxidants, then adding them to sunscreen would be beneficial,” explains Bank.
However, the study in question surprised experts when it was shown that vitamin A could possibly turn photocarcinogenic under sunrays.
Yet evidence pointing to retinyl palmitate as a cause of cancer remains unproven, as the original study examined the form of vitamin A in plain skin cream, not sunscreen. Further review by the FDA this winter shed no additional light on the situation.
Sherber cautions against jumping to conclusions when other mitigating factors may have colored the results of the study.
“The possibility that the shininess of the cream could have magnified their UV exposure — like putting on old-school baby oil in the sun — is one of several potential confounders,” says Sherber.
“It’s also important to note that the mice used in NTP (National Toxology Program) studies are highly susceptible to UV radiation. They can get skin cancer within weeks of UV exposure. While this makes studies of skin cancer in these mice feasible because they can show effects within weeks rather than years of UV exposure, we have to be very careful not to assume that these mice respond to UV or other skin-directed treatments in the same way that humans do,” adds Sherber.
Experts also caution consumers that just because a substance may be naturally derived, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically safe.
“The FDA looks at vitamins and minerals in a less stringent way than other drugs, so I am always nervous about the safety of such products,” admits Brodell. Citing that the study was done on mice, and never with sunscreen, Brodell adds, “I do not worry, for myself or my family, about retinyl palmitate, but reserve the right to change my mind if more information would become available.”
October 15th, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
Frequent use of swimming pools, especially indoor ones, can lead to long-term health problems, say three new studies published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. According to the reports, chemical disinfection byproducts that form in pools — and in the air surrounding them — can potentially cause both lung damage, asthma and cancer.
In the first study, samples of blood, urine and exhaled air from otherwise healthy individuals who swam in an indoor pool for 40 minutes revealed a significant increase in bio-markers of toxicity. Such toxicity occurs as a result of chlorine and other pool chemicals reacting with organic matter that is either introduced into the water through sweat and skin, or that is present in the water naturally.
Exposure to disinfection byproducts increased the four bio-markers of toxicity sevenfold, indicating they are a serious threat to health.
The second study found that a 40-minute swim in the pool can also cause short-term cell damage in the lungs. Perpetual cell damage from prolonged exposure can lead to serious respiratory illness.
The third study revealed that both chlorinated and brominated pools are loaded with dangerous disinfection byproducts. Samples of water from both sources revealed more than 100 toxic byproducts, many of which have never been identified in either swimming pool or drinking water.
Research continues to show that long-term exposure to the countless disinfection byproducts present in both swimming pool water increases users’ risk of developing asthma and bladder cancer. Many are calling for sweeping changes to be made in the way water is disinfected in order to reduce the threat to human health.
Until then, concerned individuals can choose to swim in ultra-violet (UV) disinfected pools and spas. The UV treatment kills dangerous pathogens and pollutants without creating toxic byproducts. Minimal, if any, chemicals are required to keep UV-treated pools optimally purified.
July 26, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
A recent study out of the University of Illinois (U of I) links pool disinfectant chemicals with diseases like asthma and bladder cancer. According to researchers, pool chemicals react with organic matter in the water to form various toxic bonds that can lead to serious health problems.
“All sources of water possess organic matter that comes from decaying leaves, microbes and other dead life forms. In addition to organic matter and disinfectants, pool waters contain sweat, hair, skin, urine, and consumer products such as cosmetics and sunscreens from swimmers,” explained Michael Plewa, a professor of genetics at U of I.
Unlike drinking water, which is exposed to disinfectants once before reaching the public, pool water is exposed to a continuous stream of disinfectants that mix and match with various other chemicals and compounds to form an unknown number of potentially dangerous chemical bonds.
According to researchers, these bonds can cause gene mutation, birth defects, respiratory problems, accelerated aging and even cancer.
“Care should be taken in selecting disinfectants to treat recreational pool water,” urged Plewa. “The data suggest that brominating agents should be avoided as disinfectants of recreational pool water.”
Plewa suggests that public pools be treated with a combination of both chlorine and ultraviolet (UV) radiation rather than these other toxic agents, but other research suggests that UV treatment alone may be effective, at least for home pools.
In his book Bottom Line’s Health Breakthroughs 2007, Dr. Martin Schwellnus suggests that public pools using chlorine keep their chlorine levels below five parts per million (ppm). He also advocates for UV treatment as well.
May 24, 2010
by Ethan Huff
Vitamin D is an amazing nutrient that protect the body from all sorts of diseases and problems. Researchers continually uncover new links between lack of vitamin D and disease, illustrating the fact that it is vital to good health. However recent studies have also found that most people are deficient in vitamin D.
A team of doctors from the McGill University Health Centre in Canada was surprised to find that about 59 percent of people evaluated were deficient in vitamin D and about 25 percent were severely deficient. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the study is allegedly the first to illustrate a definitive link between vitamin D deficiency and an accumulation of fat in muscle tissue.
“Because it [vitamin D deficiency] is linked to increased body fat, it may affect many different parts of the body. Abnormal levels of vitamin D are associated with a whole spectrum of diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders,” explained Dr. Richard Kremer, lead investigator of the study.
The main reason why people are generally lacking in vitamin D is because people spend much more time indoors than they used to. Especially with computers, people often spend their entire days inside cubicles where they are exposed to little or no sunlight.
Vitamin D is not produced in the body on its own. It is created when skin is exposed to sunlight. Some foods contain vitamin D, but in minimal amounts compared to what can be achieved from sun exposure. Most people also do not consume enough vitamin D-rich food to obtain adequate amounts of it.
The McGill study highlights an important link between vitamin D and obesity that, until now, has been largely ignored. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to decreased muscle and increased fat, which is a condition that is increasingly common in industrialized nations. Though diet also plays a role in obesity, it is striking to see vitamin D playing a role in the condition as well.
Perhaps the reason why vitamin D deficiency is linked to all sorts of serious diseases has more to do with the increase in visceral fat that it causes, which in turn leads to such health problems. This study seems to confirm that notion.
The best way to address vitamin D deficiency is to get more sunlight. But when this is not possible, particularly throughout the winter months when the sun is at a lower angle and the ultraviolet (UV) rays are at a minimum, supplementation with vitamin D is the next best option.
The study itself did not confirm one way or another the effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation in reducing fat and increasing muscle, however tests have shown that supplementation does increase blood levels of vitamin D. Many people take vitamin D supplements to alleviate their deficiency and have experience good results.
Currently, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is between 200 and 400 international units (IU) per day, depending on age. Recent studies are showing that these recommendations are too low to maintain optimal health. Some are suggesting that these guidelines be updated to amounts upwards of 1,000 IU per day, including the Canadian Cancer Society.
On a typical summer day, 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight exposure will result in the skin producing about 40,000 IU of vitamin D. At this point, the mechanism that produces it shuts off in order to prevent the body from making too much.
With these levels in mind, many naturopathic doctors recommend supplementing with up to 10,000 IU a day or more. Many believe it is difficult to take too much vitamin D because the safe upper limits are much higher than previously thought.
Currently, the best form of vitamin D is D3, or cholecalciferol, because it is the precursor to the type created by the body from sunlight exposure. Vitamin D3 can be safely taken at amounts much higher than the RDA guidelines.
Safe tanning beds are another option for achieving optimal vitamin D levels without taking a supplement. Despite recent reports that they are unsafe and cause skin cancer, some tanning beds can be used properly and safely to obtain UV rays when regular sunlight is not an option. These beds use electronic ballasts instead of magnetic ballasts that emit electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs), which can cause cancer and other health issues.
Dr. Mercola, another trusted source of natural health information, has a helpful directory of healthy tanning locations across the country. There are also companies that sell these tanning beds for home use.
If you are unsure about your vitamin D levels and wish to consult with your physician, a simple blood test will determine your levels. Whichever route you choose to take, just be sure to get enough vitamin D. Your body will thank you.
April 29, 2010
by Matt Cover
A new government report says global warming could lead to an increase in both cancer and mental illness worldwide, and it calls for more federally funded research to determine how that might happen.
The report, A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change, was published by the Interagency Working Group on Climate Change and Health – a combination of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIH, State Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Agriculture, the EPA, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The report’s overall thrust is for more federally funded research to investigate the alleged links between global warming and public health, including the potentially negative effects from warming and the potentially negative side-effect of green technologies.
While the report touches on, for example, the health effects of unclean water and respiratory ailments, it also deals with two other types of health issues not normally associated with global warming: cancer and mental illness.
While the report does not claim that global warming will cause new types of cancer, it says that “higher ambient temperatures” caused by global warming will have an effect on cancer rates, probably pushing them higher.
“There are potential impacts on cancer both directly from climate change and indirectly from climate change mitigation strategies,” the report said.
This increased risk supposedly comes from increased exposure to toxic chemicals, caused by global warming. The report also said that global warming would cause heavy rainfall, which would wash these toxic chemicals into the water. Hotter temperatures may also make these toxic chemicals even more toxic.
“One possible direct impact of climate change on cancer may be through increases in exposure to toxic chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer following heavy rainfall and by increased volatilization of chemicals under conditions of increased temperature,” states the report.
Another way that global warming will cause more cancer, the report said, was from increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is known to cause some types of skin cancer. While UV exposure happens every time you go out into the sun, the report said that global warming will make it worse, leading to potentially more skin cancer.
“Another direct effect of climate change, depletion of stratospheric ozone, will result in increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. UV radiation exposure increases the risk of skin cancers and cataracts,” the report stated.
The report also highlighted a surprising way that global warming may cause more cancer: the development of green technologies. Green technologies often involve exotic metals and alloys that, according to the report, may cause cancer.
“Increased use of NiMH [nickel-metal-hydride] batteries [used in hybrid and electric cars] will necessarily require significant increases in nickel production and the impacts associated with nickel mining and refining,” states the report. “High-level nickel exposure is associated with increased cancer risk, respiratory disease, and birth defects; the same is true with certain other metals, especially cadmium and lead [used in solar cells and batteries].
“Increased production of solar cells also can lead to increased environmental risks,” reads the report. “For example, cadmium-tellurium (CdTe) compounds in photovoltaic systems and the potential for increased cadmium emissions from mining, refining, and the manufacture, utilization, and disposal of photovoltaic modules. Cadmium and cadmium compounds like CdTe are classified as known human carcinogens.”
Despite these warnings and predictions, the report admitted that the government knows little about whether or not any of these supposed new causes of cancer will actually cause any more cancer.
A globe is projected as people are seen in Town Hall Square on the opening day of the Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday Dec. 7, 2009. The largest and most important U.N. climate change conference in history opened Monday, with organizers warning diplomats from 192 nations that this could be the best, last chance for a deal to protect the world from calamitous global warming. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
“Very little is known about how such transfers will affect people’s exposure to these chemicals — some of which are known carcinogens — and its ultimate impact on incidence of cancer,” the report states. “The largest research gaps are in the materials and methods used for mitigation and adaptation, and their potential to increase or decrease cancer risks.”
Another effect of global warming, the report said, was increased mental illness caused by natural disasters. These disasters, which already occur but will be more catastrophic as the world warms, cause stress and anxiety, which can lead to mental illness.
“A variety of psychological impacts can be associated with extreme weather and other climate related events,” reads the interagency report.
The people most likely to be affected by global warming-caused mental illness are those already susceptible to mental illness, especially stress-induced mental illness.
The report states: “Extreme weather events such as hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding, can create increased anxiety and emotional stress about the future, as well as create added stress to vulnerable communities already experiencing social, economic, and environmental disruption. Individuals already vulnerable to mental health disease and stress-related disorders are likely to be at increased risk of exacerbated effects following extreme weather or other climate change events.”
The possible mental health conditions that could be caused by global warming range from irritability to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, sexual dysfunction, and drug abuse.
“The most common mental health conditions associated with extreme events range from acute traumatic stress to more chronic stress-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated grief, depression, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints, poor concentration, sleep difficulties, sexual dysfunction, social avoidance, irritability, and drug or alcohol abuse,” reads the report.
As with global warming-caused cancer, the report admits that much more scientific work is needed on the links between global warming and mental illness, saying “numerous research gaps exist.”
“More work is necessary to understand the effects of climate change and extreme weather events on mental health status, to determine how to mitigate these effects, and to overcome the barriers to utilization and delivery of mental health services following extreme weather events,” says the interagency report.
Despite the admissions that more research was needed, the report concluded that there was “abundant evidence” of man-caused global warming, saying that “climate change will have” direct impacts on public health.
“There is abundant evidence that human activities are altering the earth’s climate and that climate change will have significant health impacts both domestically and globally.”
The report then called for an “overarching” international research effort to determine how all of the “abundant evidence” of global warming would lead to poorer public health.
“To be successful, an overarching research program needs to be integrated, focused, interdisciplinary, supported, and sustainable, yet flexible enough to adjust to new information and broad enough to cover the very diverse components described in this document,” states the report. “The effort must also be multinational, multiagency, and multidisciplinary, bringing together the strengths of all partners.”
The other public health effects of global warming cited in the report include: asthma and other respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, heat-related deaths, human developmental effects, neurological diseases, waterborne diseases, weather-related deaths, and infectious and animal-borne diseases.
April 8, 2010
By: S.L. Baker
It’s not a new idea that multiple sclerosis (MS) is somehow tied to sunlight — or, rather, the lack of adequate exposure to sunlight. For more than three decades, researchers have noted that MS is much more common in higher latitudes than in the tropics. So, because bright sunlight is more abundant near the equator and sunlight exposure results in the body producing vitamin D, some scientists have reasoned that increased vitamin D levels may lower the risk of MS.
In fact, for those who already have MS, a neurological disease marked by a deterioration in nerves’ electrical conduction, vitamin D may reduce their symptoms, according to Hector DeLuca, the Steenbock Research Professor of Biochemistry at University of Wisconsin-Madison. However, in a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), DeLuca and fellow researcher Bryan Becklund conclude the ultraviolet (UV) portion of sunlight could play an even more important role than vitamin D in preventing and/or controlling the MS.
“Since the 1970s, a lot of people have believed that sunlight worked through vitamin D to reduce MS,” DeLuca, one of the world’s top vitamin D researchers, said in a statement to the media. “It’s true that large doses of the active form of vitamin D can block the disease in the animal model. That causes an unacceptably high level of calcium in the blood, but we know that people at the equator don’t have this high blood calcium, even though they have a low incidence of MS. So it seems that something other than vitamin D could explain this geographic relationship.”
To try to better understand the impact sunshine could have on MS, Deluca and his team worked with lab mice that are genetically bred to be susceptible to a MS-like disease. The researchers triggered the disease in the animals by injecting them with a protein derived from nerve fibers. Then the mice were exposed to moderate levels of UV radiation (UVR) for a week. After the lab rodents developed multiple sclerosis-type symptoms, they were exposed to UVR every second or third day.
The UV exposure, which was equal to about two hours of direct summer sun, did not change how many mice got an MS-type illness, but it did reduce the symptoms of MS. Symptoms were especially reduced in the animals that were treated with UV light ever other day.
While the scientists found that although the UV exposure did increase the level of vitamin D in the mice, that effect by itself wasn’t enough to cause such a dramatic lessening of MS symptoms. “These results suggest that UVR is likely suppressing disease independent of vitamin D production, and that vitamin D supplementation alone may not replace the ability of sunlight to reduce MS susceptibility,” the scientists concluded in their paper.
In a media statement, DeLuca pointed out that the exposure to UV light might result in some reactive mechanism that blocks the autoimmune damage seen in MS. “We are looking to identify what compounds are produced in the skin that might play a role, but we honestly don’t know what is going on,” he said. “If we can find out what the UV is producing, maybe we could give that as a medicine. In the short term, if we can define a specific wavelength of light that is active, and it does not overlap with the wavelengths that cause cancer, we could expose patients who have been diagnosed with MS to that wavelength,” DeLuca added.