Patients need tailored advice on sunlight exposure, says NICE

NEW NICE guidance on exposure to sunlight published this month highlights the need for balancing risks against benefits when advising patients.

Sunlight exposure - risks and benefits acknowledges that communicating this balance poses a challenge to healthcare professionals. Exposure to the sun can boost vitamin D levels but too much time spent in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer.

NICE has made 18 recommendations including the need for professionals to offer one-to-one advice tailored to an individual’s level of risk and the creation of effective national and local media campaigns to emphasise how the risks and benefits of sunlight will vary depending on a variety of factors.

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.

"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."

The new guideline updates part of the skin cancer prevention public health guideline published in 2011 and also links to the NICE suspected cancer guideline published in 2015.