Sunlight exposure and sun sensitivity associated with disability progression in multiple sclerosis

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Background: Sunlight and vitamin D have been inversely associated with the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Objective: We investigated sunlight exposure and sun sensitivity in relation to disability progression in MS.

Methods: We conducted a survey among persons with MS, registered by the Flemish MS society, Belgium, and stratified data according to relapsing-onset and progressive-onset MS. We used Kaplan-Meier survival and Cox proportional hazard regression analyses with time to Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) 6 as outcome measure. Hazard ratios for the time from onset and from birth were calculated for the potentially predictive variables, adjusting for age at onset, gender and immunomodulatory treatment.

Results: 704 (51.3%) of the 1372 respondents had reached EDSS 6. In relapsing-onset MS, respondents reporting equal or higher levels of sun exposure than persons of the same age in the last 10 years had a decreased risk of reaching EDSS 6. In progressive-onset MS, increased sun sensitivity was associated with an increased hazard of reaching EDSS 6.

Conclusion: The association of higher sun exposure with a better outcome in relapsing-onset MS may be explained by either a protective effect or reverse causality. Mechanisms underlying sun sensitivity might influence progression in progressive-onset MS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-459
JournalMultiple Sclerosis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2011


  • disability progression
  • epidemiology
  • multiple sclerosis
  • sun sensitivity
  • sunlight exposure


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