Some people are shunning the sun altogether because of worries over skin cancer, which could endanger their health, a poll has found. The National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) says that the chances of brittle bone disease could raise, because of the lack of vitamin D, part-made by being in the sun.
Having lunch outside, gardening or hanging out the washing is advised by the NOS.
Though a Cancer Research UK spokesman agreed, he said enough vitamin D could be made long before the first signs of sunburn.
In recent years, skin cancer rates have soared, and people have been increasingly urged by health campaigners to limit the amount of time they spend in direct sunlight, without the protection of sunscreen or clothing.
Yet, the NOS said its survey of more than 2,600 people in June revealed that many believe there is no such thing as safe sun exposure. Sunscreen should always be applied before going out in the sun, said three-quarters of those questioned.
Nonetheless, it could be harmful not to get at least 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight on the skin every day, said the NOS.
Vitamin D is produced by light falling on the skin, and it is important for bone strength. Studies suggest that the risk of osteoporosis, which affects half of all women and a fifth of men over the age of 50, could be raised by low levels of vitamin D.
Its finding showed the success of public health messages on skin cancer, said Professor Roger Francis, from the NOS Medical Board.
“We are not advocating spending lengthy periods in the sun, as too much sun causes skin ageing and melanoma.”
“Furthermore, staying in the sun too long means that the body breaks down surplus vitamin D shortly after it is produced.”
‘a bit of sunshine in our lives’
“Lying on the beach for two weeks will not top up levels for the rest of the year.”
As a result, to get enough vitamin D to last through the winter, he urged people to get out into the light every day, even during cloudy days. He added that simply sitting by a closed window or in a conservatory was not enough, because it did not produce vitamin D.
Caroline Cerny, from Cancer Research UK, which runs its SunSmart campaign to warn people about skin cancer, said the key was a sensible approach.
“The amount of time in the sun required to make enough vitamin D changes from person to person and depends on things like skin type, time of day, time of year, and where you are in the world .”
“We all need a bit of sunshine in our lives, but it’s important to remember that the amount of sun needed to make enough vitamin D is always less than the amounts that cause reddening of the skin or sunburn.”