Enjoy the sun sensibly says Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK has warned people to weigh the benefits of exposure to the sun against the risks.
The charity was responding to research that claimed that vitamin D, which can be boosted by exposure to sunlight, may provide protection against some cancers.
"More research is suggesting a protective role for vitamin D in certain cancers, and sunlight is a major source of this fat-soluble vitamin," said Sara Hiom of Cancer Research UK.
But too much sun, especially in childhood and adolescence, is known to be the major cause of skin cancer.
"While vitamin D has a role to play in maintaining good health it is important to find a balance between minimising risk of skin cancer and maximising the beneficial effects of the sun."
The research, carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health, followed the health of 47,800 American men between 1986 and 2000.
Using details of the men's diet, lifestyles and skin pigmentation the researchers estimated their vitamin D levels, concluding that regular sun exposure could be associate with a 17 per cent drop in cancer incidence and a 29 per cent fall in cancer mortality.
Sun exposure is also linked to an increased incidence of skin cancer however, especially among fair-skinned people.
"Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign cautions against excessive sun exposure, especially when it leads to sunburn, but advises people to enjoy the sun safely," said Sara Hiom.
"People who need to take most care in sun are those with fair skin that burns, lots of moles or freckles or a family history of skin cancer."