We review the evidence indicating a possible beneficial role for UVR on three Th1-mediated autoimmune diseases: multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis in relation to recent developments in photoimmunology. Recent work suggests that UVR exposure may be one factor that can attenuate the autoimmune activity leading to these three diseases through several pathways involving UVB and UVA irradiation, UVR-derived vitamin D synthesis and other routes such as α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, calcitonin gene related peptide and melatonin. Ecological features, particularly a gradient of increasing prevalence of multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes with higher latitude, provide some support for a beneficial role of UVR. Analytical studies provide additional support, particularly as low vitamin D has been prospectively associated with disease onset for all three diseases, but are not definitive. Randomized controlled trial data are required. Further, we discuss how associated genetic studies may assist the accumulation of evidence with regard to the possible causal role of low UVR exposure and/or low vitamin D status in the development of these diseases.
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Vol. 81 • No. 6