For years the official advice put out by Cancer Research UK for preventing skin cancer more closely resembled a deeply eccentric project to turn us into a nation of vampires rather than a sensible evidence-based public health policy. Their SunSmart advice used to recommend that sunny days in Britain posed such a threat that they could only be safely faced while hiding behind lashings of high potency sun cream, a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses.
One predictable and appalling result of this evidence-free official advice has been 700 cases a year of the entirely avoidable bone disease rickets that children develop when their well-meaning and obedient parents insured that they were permanently covered up to keep the sun’s evil rays at bay.
Just how much damage the advice also caused by making people more susceptible to a variety of other disorders linked with low levels of vitamin D is incalculable but there’s growing evidence that cancers, diabetes, heart disease, along with multiple sclerosis, type I diabetes and other auto-immune disorders are all more likely when you are deficient. For more details see Vitamin D: Update 2013. From rickets prophylaxis to general preventive healthcare.
No sound scientific basis
The latest Cancer Research UK advice isn’t quite so hysterical – in fact it has been described as a U-turn: ten minutes in the mid-day sun without sun cream but only two or three times a week. So it acknowledges that sun exposure is beneficial but then advises a window so small it’s unlikely to allow anyone to make sufficient vitamin D to avoid running into problems. What’s more there is no sound scientific basis for proposing such a limited exposure.
These details of the dismal state of official advice concerning vitamin D are all taken from a fascinating and alarming post that has just gone up on HealthInsightUK.org – the site that is looking for sensible solutions – by Dr Oliver Gillie, who is a pioneer of the campaign for a better understanding of the dangers of vitamin D deficiencies.
And it’s not just the official advice about sunbathing that is woefully ill-informed. Dr Gillie describes how advice to mothers of new born babies at risk for being deficient is based more on a desire not to backtrack too fast on their previous disastrous advice rather than on anything that actually meets the needs of the population. Have a look at the post for more examples of evidence based medicine official style.