Toxicology 2002 Dec 27;181-182:71-8
Ponsonby AL, McMichael A, van der Mei I.
National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, ACT 0200, Canberra, Australia
This review examines the epidemiological evidence that suggests that Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) may play a protective role in three autoimmune diseases: multiple sclerosis, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and rheumatoid arthritis.
To date, most of the information has accumulated from population studies that have studied the relationship between geography or climate and autoimmune disease prevalence.
An interesting gradient of increasing prevalence with increasing latitude has been observed for at least two of the three diseases.
This is most evident for multiple sclerosis, but a similar gradient has been shown for insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in Europe and North America.
Seasonal influences on both disease incidence and clinical course and, more recently, analytical studies at the individual level have provided further support for a possible protective role for UVR in some of these diseases but the data are not conclusive.
Organ-specific autoimmune diseases involve Th1 cell-mediated immune processes.
Recent work in photoimmunology has shown ultraviolet B (UVB) can specifically attenuate these processes through several mechanisms which we discuss.
In particular, the possible contribution of an UVR-induced increase in serum vitamin D (1,25(OH)(2)D(3)) levels in the beneficial immunomodulation of these diseases is discussed.