Some midday sun exposure 'healthy'
Englishmen - and other Britons - have been urged to go out in the midday sun to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D.
Contrary to the cover-up message in Noel Coward's song about "mad dogs and Englishmen", experts now say some unprotected sun exposure is necessary for good health.
A consensus statement by seven leading health groups and charities recommends 10 to 15 minutes of bare skin exposure three times a week in the summer.
Preferably, surrendering your body to the sun should take place at midday, say the experts. Before 10am and after 4pm the rays are too weak in the UK even in summer to stimulate vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
But a big part of the message is that people should "never be red" at the end of the day. After 10 to 15 minutes it is time to go indoors, cover up or slap on the sunscreen.
Safety advice has softened since fear of skin cancer meant everyone was encouraged to avoid the sun, but this has led to confusion.The guidance is intended to make it clear that "little and frequent" sun exposure is now officially considered a good thing.
The consensus statement represents the views of the British Association of Dermatologists, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Heart Forum, the National Osteoporosis Society and the Primary Care Dermatology Society.
Key to the advice is striking a balance between adequate vitamin D levels for healthy bones and avoiding skin cancer.
Vitamin D can be obtained from diet but is primarily manufactured in the skin by a process that involves ultraviolet B rays from the sun. Too little vitamin D can lead to rickets in children and brittle bones in adults.
Speaking to journalists in London, Professor Rona Mackie from the British Association of Dermatologists and University of Glasgow said: "Little and frequent sun exposure, for the UK, is the safest and best way to boost vitamin D synthesis."