'Don't be afraid to go outside': New study suggests sunshine reduces MS risk

If you're dreaming about hanging out on P.E.I.'s beaches with your kids this summer, but worried about the sun exposure, there's some good news in a new study from the University of British Columbia.

The study by neurology professor Helen Tremlett suggests children who spend more time outside can have a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis that lasts into their 30s.

"Your risk of developing MS is a mixture of genetics and environmental factors, and we think that sunlight exposure is one of those things," Tremlett said.

Tremlett said the protective mechanism from the sunlight is not clear, but it does not appear to be vitamin D, which skin makes when exposed to sunlight. Other possible factors include that sunlight on your skin can modulate your immune system, and that sunlight in your eyes adjusts melatonin levels.

'Practice safe sun'

While the sun does appear to have some protective qualities when it comes to MS, Tremlett cautions that does not mean people should ignore the very real damage the sun can cause.

"Don't be afraid to go outside. Don't hide away indoors necessarily, but practice safe sun," she said.

"If you do go out, be mindful of getting sunburn and follow those Canadian Cancer Society guidelines."

The impact of the sun, Tremlett said, seems to be particularly strong for children who spent time outside in summer.

Tremlett and her team used data from a long-running study in the U.S., which tracked 386 women over decades.

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