Latest health advice recommends exposure to the mid-day sun for short durations, without the application of sunscreen/sunblock, because the dangers of vitamin D deficiency outweigh the risks of skin cancer. Fear of skin cancer had made people too cautious about sun exposure. This change of opinion is due to the rising concern that people may not be getting the optimal levels of vitamin D and also due to the increase in the number of children developing vitamin D deficiency diseases like rickets. .
Seven organizations have issued this joint advice as the body gets about 90% of vitamin D from natural sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It helps to protect the body against osteoporosis. It is also important for the proper functioning of the immune system. Deficiency has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, several cancers, and bone softening in adults.
The British Association of Dermatologists, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Heart Forum, the National Osteoporosis Society and the Primary Care Dermatology Society have voiced their opinion that small and frequent durations of sun exposure (about 10-15minutes) several times a week (about 3times) is a safe balance between the required levels of vitamin D and risk of skin cancer. Mid-day sun exposure is recommended because during this period the UVB rays are most effective at synthesizing vitamin D. Professor Rona Mackie, from the British Association of Dermatologists, said: "Total sun protection with high factor suncream on all the time is not ideal, in terms of vitamin D levels."