Exposure to sunlight has been linked to a number of health benefits, including a reduced incidence of some cancers. New research suggests that ultraviolet light exposure may also cut the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
The data come from the Nurses’ Health Study with more than 200,000 women included and periodically questioned about their activities and health. The first group of approximately 100,000 volunteers was recruited in 1976 and followed through 2008. The second cohort began in 1989 and was followed through 2009.
The scientists discovered that among the older women, regular sun exposure reduced the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by about 20%. There was no association one direction or the other among the younger women, perhaps because they were more likely to use sunscreen to protect their skin from ultraviolet rays and their potential to cause skin cancer. The researchers speculate that skin production of vitamin D might help explain the protective effect of sunshine.
We discuss the value of vitamin D against joint pain in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. It has a brief discussion of medication for rheumatoid arthritis as well as many home remedies for easing painful joints.