The latest guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have suggested there is no safe way to tan, while simultaneously promoting the benefits of moderate exposure to the sun.1
Being over-exposed to the sun in the middle of the day can increase the risk of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, sunburn and lead to premature ageing of the skin. Certain groups are at particular risk, including children and babies, people who work outside, those who are fair-skinned, and people with a family history of skin cancer.
The NICE guidelines recognise that people in the UK currently don't apply sunscreen on a regular basis whilst in the UK, and suggest we change our habits. They advise we apply sunscreen of at least SPF15 between March and October, and use brands which have the lettering UVA on the front.
The guidelines emphasise that any idea of a safe tan is a myth, and tanning of any kind can increase the risk of skin cancer, while also confirming that sunbeds are even more risky than natural sunlight.
However, the report also recognises that one in five people in the UK are likely to have some degree of vitamin D deficiency, which is needed to help us absorb calcium and phosphorous in the food we eat. This deficiency can lead to soft bones and teeth, and can cause conditions such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
A vitamin D deficiency can be avoided in most cases by spending 10 to 15 minutes a day in natural sunlight with uncovered forearms or legs.
1 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Sunlight exposure: risks and benefits. February 2016
No safe way to suntan, new NICE guidance warns. BBC News, February 9 2016
Don't go out in the sun for over 10 minutes warn health chiefs: Sunseekers told there is no such thing as a healthy tan as they are urged to slap on EIGHT teaspoons of sunscreen. Daily Mail, February 9 2016
No such thing as a safe tan, warn health officials. The Daily Telegraph, February 9 2016
Millions of British sun-worshippers warned there is "no safe way" to get a tan. Daily Mirror, February 9 2016
There's no safe way to get a natural sun tan, says official health guidelines. The Independent, February 9 2016