NICE publishes new guidelines on sunlight exposure

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new guidelines on the risks and benefits of UV exposure for health and social practitioners, as well as local authorities and the wider public.

Sunlight Exposure: Risks and Benefits highlights the groups of people who are at risk of over- and under-exposure to ultraviolet rays, specifically UVA and UVB, as well as helping people understand why they may need to modify their behaviour to reduce their risk of skin cancer or vitamin D deficiency.

Groups categorised at at risk include people with lighter skin, fair or red hair, blue or green eyes, or who have lots of freckles; groups who have little or no exposure to the sun for cultural reasons or because they are confined indoors for long periods; and outdoor workers, among others.

The report acknowledges that guidance for sun protection often seems to be conflicting with advice for promoting vitamin D synthesis, and explains in detail the way UV light helps the body make vitamin D and the times this process is optimised.

“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,” said Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE.

The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA) has welcomed the guidelines, along with other interested parties, who provided comments during the drafting process. CTPA will be working with other stakeholders to promote the messages in the guidelines to help people stay safe in the sun.

The new guidelines replace recommendations 1-5 in Skin Cancer Prevention NICE guideline PH32 (2011) and are designed to be read together with NICE guidelines Vitamin D: Increasing Supplement use among at-Risk Groups.