Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Sunbeds: not as bad as you might think?

Just when you thought the sunbed industry had almost reached its demise after being blighted over the years by extremely bad press, it seems that basking under artificial UV rays (and sunbathing) might not be as bad as was once thought. 

To recap – Cancer Research UK and The Sunbed Association (TSA) have long been at loggerheads about the health benefits and dangers of sunbeds (the first has always been forthright in issuing warnings that overuse increases the danger of melanoma, while the latter has always stood its ground about the benefits of ‘sunshine nutrient’ Vitamin D).

Now however it looks as though the positive aspects of UV exposure have come to light for both parties following news that Cancer Research UK plans to change its advice from telling people to 'cover up completely' to 'wait several minutes in the sun before applying protective cream.'  

It’s been predicted that vitamin D deficiency costs the UK more then £27billion each year – while smoking costs £6billion - with an estimated six out of ten adults affected. TSA reckons that the sun in the UK isn’t strong enough to enable us to manufacture vitamin D sufficiently for seven months out of the year, and that “responsible sunbed use could be the answer.”

Meanwhile, Oliver Gillie of the Health Research Forum agrees has issued a new peer report that reads: “It’s very difficult for anyone living in the UK to get enough vitamin D from the sun to provide them with the optimum blood level that will last through the winter. To do so you may need to expose as much of your body as possible to the sun for at least 40 minutes six days a week, but, given the number of sunless days each summer, this is not possible.”

His advice is: “Start by sunbathing without suncream to get your vitamin D and when you’ve had enough it is best to put on some clothes and a hat or move into the shade.”

Personally, while I have always sunbathed with care, I stopped using sunbeds immediately after seeing the horrified face of a dermatologist I once met to discuss my skin. I was always led to believe that the body could generate enough vitamin D from British sunshine, even on a cloudy winter day. But with so many people thought to be deficient, it’s clear that this cannot be the case. It’ll be interesting to hear Cancer Research UK’s new sun care advice along with other expert recommendations.   

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