Sunshine: Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right

Sun exposure during childhood, especially between 6 and 15 years of age appears to protect people from later developing multiple sclerosis, according to a study in the August 9, 2003 British Medical Journal. MS affects more than 1 million people; it is a disease where the body attacks the insulation around nerve cells. This causes conduction problems that can trigger muscle weakness, clumsiness, slurred speech, and vision problems. Before this study we knew that MS is more common the farther people live from the equator.

This study looked at recent and childhood sun exposure. Childhood sun exposure, especially in the winter months, seems to be protective. Only a moderate amount of sun exposure is needed for this effect. Too much sun exposure, especially during peak sun times, carries its own long-term health risks, including malignant melanoma. Sunburn is never a good idea. But some amount of sunshine, fresh air, and outdoor play seems to be good for kids – a benefit that lasts a lifetime comes from childhood days in the backyard or the park. As in so many things, balance and moderation are key.

Published on: August 13, 2003
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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