NICE urges balance in skin cancer guidance

NICE has advised a 'balanced approach' to sunlight exposure in its latest skin cancer guidance to ensure protection against melanomas does not lead to low vitamin D or lack of outdoor exercise.

The guidance calls on employers to ensure outdoor workers remain protected against the harmful effects of sunburn.

Children and young people should be advised to seek shade on sunny days, or wear protective clothing or sunscreen otherwise.

Commissioners have been advised to continue to run media campaigns to raise awareness of the risks of UV exposure.

However, being out the sun provides a good source of vitamin D and the opportunity to exercise, NICE said, and should not be ignored.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the centre for public health excellence at NICE, said: 'There is nothing wrong with short periods of exposure to sunshine, and it may in fact be beneficial.'

He continued: ‘But prolonged exposure and sunburn can have dangerous consequences – a third of all cancers detected in this country are from skin cancer, including non-malignant and malignant melanoma.

'The incidence of malignant melanoma in Great Britain has more than tripled since the 1970s and yet many people still underestimate the prevalence of skin cancer.’

The new guidance focuses on how the NHS and local authorities can help prevent skin cancer using public information, sun protection resources and by making changes to the natural and built environment.

Non-melanoma accounts for around a third of all cancers detected in the UK, with an estimated 100,000 people affected.

Malignant melanoma causes the majority of skin cancer deaths – around 2,500 per year.

Professor Catherine Law of Public Health and Epidemiology, UCL Institute of Child Health and chair of NICE’s Public Health Interventions Advisory Committee said: ‘The guidance includes some simple and practical recommendations which can prevent over-exposure. These include creating shaded areas when constructing new or redeveloping existing buildings.

‘It also recommends that schools should encourage children and young people to apply sun screen and seek shade during breaks outside; and employers should encourage staff working outside to wear clothing that protects them from the harmful effects of the sun, such as a broad-brimmed hat that covers the back of the neck.’

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