It can be a source of great frustration for PwMS. A new study comes out showing that vitamin D reduces relapse rate in MS; another study shows that the risk of developing MS is reduced by 70% for people taking vitamin D; still further studies show that sun exposure reduces MS risk.
The studies keep coming, and there is very little evidence contradicting these important findings. Yet our medical advisors continue to demand more evidence before making any recommendations.
It is interesting to note the disparity here: we didn't wait for randomised controlled trials about smoking and lung cancer to advise people to stop smoking; we didn't wait for randomised controlled trials to advise people to avoid sun exposure to reduce melanoma risk.
Yet the evidence for sun exposure and vitamin D supplementation is now so vast and so congruent, all pointing to reducing risk of getting the disease and of its activity, that one wonders how much more evidence we need.
Certainly here at OMS we have been advocating since 1999 regular low dose sun exposure, that is 10-15 minutes, as close to all over as possible, 3-5 times a week, adjusted for UV index.
This amount of sun exposure appears to be highly protective, not only for PwMS, but in prevention of a range of internal cancers, and a variety of autoimmune diseases.
Professor Bruce Taylor, a highly respected expert in multiple sclerosis, particularly in the research around sunlight and vitamin D in MS, has finally started a serious conversation at high level amongst neurologists about whether our sun avoidance public health policies based on skin cancer risk have gone too far, and whether we should be promoting judicious exposure to UV light (in sunlight) to promote a healthy immune system.
It is heartening to see the issue finally being discussed in the top line neurology journals. While the inevitable 'more research is needed' is appended, at least, slowly, slowly, the experts are starting to discuss this.
In the meantime of course, PwMS should continue to be highly pro-active and look to get regular sun exposure in the amounts suggested here at OMS. The risk for PwMS, and those susceptible to MS, of waiting for the research, far outweighs any perceived risk from such healthy sun exposure.