Zoe diet’s Tim Spector sparks everyday sunscreen row

By Julia Wray | Published: 15-May-2024

As critics slam Tim Spector’s comments on year round SPF 50, sun safety experts give their opinion

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Health guru Professor Tim Spector has come under fire following a tweet on X, formerly known as Twitter, suggesting people should stop using SPF 50 sunscreen all year round. 

The British epidemiologist, medical doctor and science writer – best known as the founder of the personalised Zoe diet – posted a link to a recent mouse study claiming vitamin D levels may be an important factor in cancer immunity and immunotherapy success. 

Accompanying the link, Spector wrote: “Vitamin D regulates cancer immunity via microbiome- another reason to stop using SPF 50 all year round which blocks our natural defences”.

The tweet has received criticism, with David Noble, a microbiologist and molecular geneticist, responding: “That's an irresponsible tweet Tim. You know darn well that extrapolating pre-clinical animal studies directly to human beings is unsound. The advice you give here is dangerous. Please retract.”

Adriano Aguzzi, Professor and Director of the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich, likewise replied on X, adding: “This is a frighteningly inaccurate post which may create huge damage and may even cause loss of lives. Academic authorities with a large followership should be more mindful than this.”

Spector boasts 117,700 followers on X. 

A co-author of the study in question, Professor Caetano Reis e Sousa from the Francis Crick Institute, even took to the social media platform to distance the findings from Spector’s comments.   

“This is a blatant misrepresentation of our work. Our study does not in any way suggest that the application of SPF50 sunscreen 'blocks our natural defences' or is detrimental to health,” he wrote via his account @ReiseSousaLab.

But is the health care expert’s stance, while unpopular, entirely incorrect; does high factor sunscreen need to be worn all year round?

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