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Skin cancer prevention advice published by NICE

by News team

Recommendations on how to tailor and deliver advice for preventing skin cancer has been published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

The guidance advises pharmacists, and others involved in providing skin-related health information, to:

  • Develop and deliver skin cancer prevention campaigns, ensuring messages are integrated with existing national campaigns and repeated over time
  • Establish measurable campaign objectives, factor in the need to tackle heath inequalities and use local data to establish target groups (eg, people who work outdoors, are immunosuppressed or have a family history of skin cancer)
  • Ensure messages explain simply the dangers of ultraviolet exposure and how people can assess their own risk level
  • Keep messages simple and succinct, and tailor them to the target group

Campaign messages should convey the risks and the benefits of sun exposure, and explain the range of options for protecting skin against UV damage, such as limiting daily sun exposure and staying in the shade between 11am and 3pm.

Balanced advice around risk of exposure to sunlight needed

Sue Kilby, pharmacist for Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire Cancer Network, said:

“It’s important to provide balanced advice about the risks. Some exposure to the sun is necessary for the synthesis of vitamin D, which is necessary for bone development, and we don’t want to stop people exercising outdoors — but[equally] we don’t want anyone to get sunburnt or to be unaware of the risks of using sunbeds.”

Last month, authors of a BMJ review (11 January 2011) called for a change in UK public health policy surrounding vitamin D deficiency. Although local initiatives have been implemented to address this issue, “the high number of patients presenting with symptomatic vitamin D insufficiency highlights the fact that we have some way to go”, the authors said.

The BMJ study says that in a fair-skinned person, 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight exposure on the face and forearms at midday, two or three times a week in summer is sufficient to achieve healthy vitamin D levels in the UK.

The guidance, “Skin cancer prevention: information, resources and environmental changes”, complements existing NICE guidance on detecting and treating skin cancer.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11067395

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Supplementary images

  • Sunscreen (Jakub Jirsák/Dreamstime.com)

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