Increased UV radiation can affect human fertility, new NTNU study finds

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

A new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology shows that increased UV radiation can have an effect on human fertility over generations.

Gine Roll Skjærvø at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Biology has studied church records from 1750-1900 and looked at life history variables: how old were women when they had their first child, and their last? How many years passed between the birth of each child, and how many of these children survived? How many of these children were in turn married and had children?

All told, she studied information from more than 9,000 people listed in the church records she examined.

Part of this information was compared with environmental factors, including solar activity.
 Skjærvø and her colleagues found that children born in years with lots of solar activity had a higher probability of dying compared to children who were born in years with less solar activity.

An 11-year cycle

On average, the lifespan of children born in years that had a great deal of solar activity was 5.2 years shorter than other children. The largest difference was in the probability of dying during the first two years of life.

Children who were born in years with lots of sunshine and who survived were also more likely to have fewer children, who in turn gave birth to fewer children than others. This finding shows that increased UV radiation during years of high solar activity had an effect across generations.

Skjærvø used information on the number of sunspots as an indication of the amount of UV radiation in a given year. The number of sunspots reaches a maximum every 11 years on average, which results in more UV radiation on Earth during years with high sunspot and solar activity.

UV radiation can have positive effects on human vitamin D levels, but it can also result in a reduction of vitamin B9 (folate). It is known that low folate levels during pregnancy are linked to higher child mortality.

Low-status women most affected

The NTNU study showed that families from the lowest socio-economic groups were most affected by UV radiation. This is probably related to the time period Skjærvø studied, which was a time of clear class distinctions in Norway, especially in rural areas. Women who worked in the fields were more exposed to the sun than other women. In many cases they also had a poorer diet.

Both climate change and variability in the ozone layer are expected to increase the amount of UV radiation reaching the Earth in the future. At the same time, there have been many societal changes since the 1900s.

Nevertheless the NTNU researchers felt it prudent to caution women who want to have children.

"There are probably many factors that come into play, but we have measured a long-term effect over generations. The conclusion of our study is that you should not sunbathe if you are pregnant and want to have a lot of grandchildren," says Skjærvø.

Scientists are particularly concerned about people with light skin who move to warmer climates with lots of sun.

The study was published in the 7 January issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B and is entitled "Solar activity at birth predicted infant survival and women's fertility in historical Norway."


  1. Brianna Andrews Brianna Andrews Ukraine says:

    We tried to having a baby for about 3 years, until doctors diagnosed PCOS. Unfortunately, drug treatment gave no result and only opportunity to have a child was IVF. The little hope was all the same. I read a lot and made sure that with my diagnosis I can try it. Than I tried two times in my homeland Norway, but it wasn`t successful. Then began problems with money and we decided to risk and to do it in Ukraine, where the price was much smaller. I can`t say that Ukrainian service is the best or completely on the same level like in the USA or in Uruguay for example. But exceeded all my expectations. They work only with foreigners, so the staff is well educated. Workers  supported me a lot. And their doctors are always ready to help you to solve your problems. We made all necessary analyzes and checked my health carefully. During the pregnancy doctors consulted me quite often, so me and my family on the each stage knew about the condition of the baby. Now I can say that I`m a happy mother of a healthy child.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Lurie Children's Hospital administers first gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy in Illinois