Hypothesis—Ultraviolet-B Irradiance and Vitamin D Reduce the Risk of Viral Infections and thus Their Sequelae, Including Autoimmune Diseases and some Cancers


  • This paper is part of a special issue dedicated to Professor Hasan Mukhtar on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

*Corresponding author email: wgrant@infionline.net (William B. Grant)


Many viral infections reach clinical significance in winter, when it is cold, relative humidity is lowest and vitamin D production from solar ultraviolet-B irradiation is at its nadir. Several autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes mellitus and asthma, are linked to viral infections. Vitamin D, through induction of cathelicidin, which effectively combats both bacterial and viral infections, may reduce the risk of several autoimmune diseases and cancers by reducing the development of viral infections. Some types of cancer are also linked to viral infections. The cancers with seemingly important risk from viral infections important in winter, based on correlations with increasing latitude in the United States, an index of wintertime solar ultraviolet-B dose and vitamin D, are bladder, prostate, testicular and thyroid cancer, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and, perhaps, gastric cancer. The evidence examined includes the role of viruses in the etiology of these diseases, the geographic and seasonal variation of these diseases, and the time of life when vitamin D is effective in reducing the risk of disease. In general, the evidence supports the hypothesis. However, further work is required to evaluate this hypothesis.