GPs should take an individual-based approach when offering advice about sun exposure and take into account a person’s behaviour and skin type, say NICE in new guidelines.
The guidelines, published today, focus on the dangers of excess sun exposure in people in high risk groups, such as children and people with fair skin.
They give advice about vitamin D deficiency in people with dark skin and those with low exposure to the sun – including those who work indoors or cover their skin for cultural reasons.
NICE highlight the need for patients with fair skin to limit their exposure to the sun and to be careful even in cool or cloudy conditions over the summer months.
They also recommend reminding patients with darker skin about the need to spend longer in the sun to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D as well as giving advice about taking vitamin D supplements.
Included in the guidelines are reminders that it is not possible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight between October and March in the UK, nor is it possible to get enough vitamin D by sitting next to a window and people who work inside should be encouraged to spend some time outdoors or may need to take supplements.
The guidance updates some recommendations made in NICE’s 2011 skin cancer prevention guidelines and is recommended for use alongside NICE’s guideline on vitamin D on increasing supplement use among at-risk groups.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: ‘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.’