Regional variation in multiple sclerosis prevalence in Australia and its association with ambient ultraviolet radiation.
van der Mei IA., Ponsonby AL., Blizzard L., Dwyer T.
The aim of this study was to conduct an ecological analysis of the extent to which ultraviolet radiation (UVR) levels might explain the regional variation of multiple sclerosis (MS) in Australia. MS prevalence data for six Australian regions were compared with UVR levels of the largest city in each region, with some other climatic variables and with the melanoma incidence in the same regions. A close association was found between the theoretical MS prevalence predicted from UVR levels and the actual prevalence. Furthermore, the negative correlation between UVR and MS prevalence (r = -0.91, p = 0.01) was higher than the positive correlation observed for UVR and malignant melanoma incidence (r = 0.75, p = 0.15 for males and r = 0.80, p = 0.10 for females). This study demonstrated that the regional variation in MS prevalence in the continent of Australia could be closely predicted by regional UVR levels. It is consistent with the hypothesis that UVR exposure may reduce the risk of MS possibly via T-lymphocyte-mediated immunosuppression. Analytical epidemiology studies are required to investigate this specific hypothesis.