Now summer has finally arrived, should we slather on the sunscreen to protect against skin cancer, or expose ourselves to the sun’s rays to boost vitamin D levels?


Safety first: 'There is unfortunately no established level of sun exposure guaranteed to produce enough vitamin D without harming your skin'

Experts have linked over-conscientious use of sun creams with low levels of the “sunshine vitamin”, which is vital for strong bones and has additional health benefits. On the other hand, Cancer Research UK revealed last week that annual diagnoses of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, in middle-aged people have risen from 500 in the late Seventies to more than 2,000 today.

The NHS advises spending 10-15 minutes in the sun daily without sunscreen for a vitamin D boost, but some specialists recommend taking a vitamin D supplement rather than leaving off the sunscreen. Dr Stefanie Williams, a London dermatologist, explains: “How much vitamin D your skin produces depends on many factors, including its colour —pale skins synthesise vitamin D faster but also burn more easily. There is unfortunately no established level of sun exposure guaranteed to produce enough vitamin D without harming your skin.”

She advises a vitamin D supplement of 1000IU (0.025mg) daily for most people (official advice is for supplements to be taken only by those at risk of deficiency).

Dr Howard Murad, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles, agrees that taking a supplement is better than relying on the sun. “Sunlight is not a surefire way to receive the 'right’ amount of Vitamin D,” he says.


 Cancer Research UK recommends using a product with an SPF of at least 15 to protect against the UVB rays that cause sunburn. However, the SPF does not indicate whether a product protects against the UVA rays that cause skin ageing and are implicated in skin cancer. The best UVA protection is given by products that contain filters such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide, says Dr Williams.

“To get a good indication about a product’s UVA, you may want to check the manufacturer’s website. A good product would provide an SPF of 30-50 and a PPD (persistent pigment darkening) factor of at least 15.”

Some products contain added ingredients such as antioxidants, which are said to repair skin damage or prevent blemishes. Do they do any good?

“Antioxidants such as vitamin C or E can help to protect your skin,” says Dr Williams, “but they should never be a substitute for UV filters and behaving sensibly in the sun.”

Says Dr Murad: ''Good sunscreens should always include hydrators, anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants.”

No sunscreen, no matter how high its SPF, can provide 100 per cent protection, warns Jennifer Richards, a nurse skin specialist at The Mole Clinic in London. “It is crucial that you apply sunscreen generously and regularly. For an average person, this means about two teaspoonfuls for the head, arms and neck, and about two tablespoonfuls if you’re covering all areas left exposed by a swimming costume.”

Me? I’m getting a large hat and sitting in the shade.

Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/9434762/Sun-tan-cream-how-much-is-safe.html
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