You may have seen many reports in the media on the new NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) Guidelines on Sunlight Exposure. CTPA welcomes the guidelines, for health and social care practitioners, on the risks and benefits of sunlight. CTPA, along with many other interested parties, provided comments during the drafting process.
NICE clearly sets out the risks of skin damage from over-exposure to sunlight, as well as explaining the way UV light helps the body make Vitamin D and the times when this process is optimised.
Sun exposure is personal
NICE highlights the groups of people who are at risk of over- and under-exposure to sunlight. It is important to remember that sun exposure is a very personal thing and everyone's skin and their bodies' needs will be different. NICE acknowledges that the guidance for sun protection often seems to be in conflict with advice for promoting Vitamin D synthesis. It is important that we know and understand our skin type and make sure our sun exposure doesn't put us at risk of burning and other damage that the sun's rays can cause, while being mindful of boosting our Vitamin D levels. In spite of what you might have read in some newspapers, NICE does not give any specific guidance of how long we should stay out in the sun.
Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE, says in the NICE Press Release:
"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 also recommends national and local media public health campaigns are undertaken to raise awareness of how the risks and benefits of sunlight will vary depending on the individual. CTPA looks forward to working with other stakeholders on promoting the messages in the NICE guidelines to help us all stay safe in the sun.
Simple steps to stay sunsafe:
Seek out shade, particularly between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is usually at its most intense
Wear loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat when in the sun and sunglasses
Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and re-apply every couple of hours throughout the day - you will need about a golf-ball-sized amount of cream for each application
Never use sunscreen to extend the time you would normally spend in the sun
Exposing commonly uncovered areas of skin such as forearms and hands, for short periods when in strong sunlight provides vitamin D; but it is important not stay unprotected in the sun long enough to burn or tan.