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NICE publishes new guidelines to help weigh-up the risks and benefits of sunlight exposure

NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – has published guidance which will help us all to enjoy the sunshine safely.

Communicating the risks and benefits of sunlight exposure is a challenge. Exposure to the sun can boost vitamin D levels, but too much time spent in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer. A balance needs to be struck.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “How much time we should spend in the sun depends on a number of factors including geographical location, time of day and year, weather conditions and natural skin colour.”

“People with lighter skin, people who work outside and those of us who enjoy holidays in sunny countries all have a higher risk of experiencing skin damage and developing skin cancer. On the other hand, people who cover up for cultural reasons, are housebound or otherwise confined indoors for long periods of time are all at higher risk of low vitamin D levels”.

NICE has made 18 recommendations in this guidance. These include;

  • professionals offering one-to-one advice tailored to the individual’s level of risk,
  • creating effective national and local media campaigns to emphasise how the risks and benefits of sunlight will vary depending on the individual,
  • combining sun care messages with existing national and local health promotion programmes.

Together these recommendations will support healthcare professionals in identifying those most at risk from sun damage. They will also aid in the development of consistent information, which will better educate and protect the public from over or under exposure to sunlight.

Professor Leng added: “We need to better identify groups at risk of over or under exposure to sunlight and give them better understanding of why they may need to modify their behaviour and how.

“Our new recommendations will help tailor public health activities focused on those groups most at risk from over or under exposure to sunlight. They will ensure that all activities and campaigns take a balanced, consistent and effective approach, and ultimately make the sun more friend than foe.”

The full guidance can be downloaded here.