New research suggests adequate sun exposure may help boost vitamin D absorption and prevent osteoporosis

Despite reports that people should stay out of the sun to prevent skin cancer, many doctors are encouraging time outside in order to promote vitamin D absorption and prevent osteoporosis. BBC News reports that Cancer Research UK and the National Osteoporosis Society, among other organizations, are suggesting that short and frequent time spent in the sunshine can benefit health.

Rona Mackie, from the British Association of Dermatologists, said that total sun protection with high-factor sunscreen on all the time is not ideal, in terms of vitamin D levels, reports the news source. She told BBC that what has changed is that now officials are saying minimal sun exposure in the UK, without sunscreen, a few times per week, may be the best balance between adequate vitamin D absorption and skin cancer risk.

"Even Australia has changed its policy on this," Mackie told the media outlet. "They're now producing charts showing parts of Australia where sun protection may not be required during some parts of the year."

She added that messages about sun exposure have been too negative since summer sunshine in the UK is not very strong.

In addition to more sunshine, the government has recommended that pregnant women and children under 5 take vitamin D supplements. However, the authors note that many mothers are unaware of this recommendation.

Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said that "a good diet and sensible sun exposure will be adequate for the great majority of the UK population."

Approximately 8 million women and 2 million men have osteoporosis in the U.S., according to National Osteoporosis Foundation. Affected bone becomes brittle and can fracture with minor falls, and in severe cases, a bone can even break from a sneeze. Another 34 million Americans are estimated to have low bone mass and are at higher risk for osteoporosis.
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