Sun's UVB Rays Lower Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

Posted on February 05 2013

While the sun’s rays can cause irreparable damage to our skin and increase our chances of developing skin cancer, it is also essential to a healthy life. UVB rays emitted by the sun may even decrease the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in women. A new report, compiled by data from the Nurses’ Health Study, indicates that women who have had a long-duration to UVB exposure are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. The study was conducted in 2 phases. The first starting in 1976, running till 2008, looked at women age 30 to 55. The second began in 1989, running till 2009 and focused on women age 25 to 42. By 2009, when both phases had ended, 1314 women had developed rheumatoid arthritis out of a total of 235,000 participants. The study then looked at the participant’s exposure to UVB rays including estimates of exposure at birth, and again at age 15. There was also adjustment for UVB-flux, which provides a general calculation of geographical conditions affecting UVB exposure. Participants with higher exposure to UVB rays also held a 21% decreased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. However, many of the patients with the decreased risk fell into the Phase 1 category. Researchers have yet to determine if this is because of the evolving knowledge of the damage the sun can cause to the skin. It is speculated that younger participants are more aware of these dangers and actively limit their exposure or use sunscreen products. Yet, the study supports other findings that the regular exposure to the sun can decrease risk of developing other conditions including Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.  There are more occurrences of rheumatoid arthritis found in northeastern states, where sunlight can be greatly limited. The northeast’s higher RA rates also coincide with higher rates of Vitamin D deficiencies. While the report has built some solid evidence to show the sun as a vital part of our health, there is still more work to do. Researchers have done an excellent job of proving a relationship between UVB ray’s and decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, but a cause-and-effect relationship has yet to be determined. Sources: U.S. News and World Report - HealthDay - Medical News Today - MedPage Today -


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