NICE calls for national campaigns to warn of the risks of UV radiation
National mass-media campaigns warning the public of the risks of UV radiation - the leading cause of skin cancer - should continue to be developed and sustained by NHS commissioners and local authorities, as rates of melanoma rise faster than any other cancer in the UK.
There are two main types of skin cancer - non-melanoma and malignant melanoma. Non-melanoma is thought to account for around a third of all cancers detected in the UK, with approximately 100,000 people affected.
About 10,670 cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, were diagnosed in 2007 in the UK. If current trends continue, it is estimated that there will be around 15,500 cases of malignant melanoma diagnosed per year within the next 15 years.
This latest guidance focuses on ways to help prevent skin cancer using public information, sun protection resources and by making changes to the built environment.
NICE recommends that campaigns raising awareness of skin cancer be integrated within existing health promotion programmes, such as Sure Start.
At a local level, GPs, health visitors, pharmacists and school nurses should raise awareness of the risks of too much sun and ways of protecting against harmful UV exposure.
They should explain how someone can assess their own level of risk. If they have pale skin, red hair, freckles or lots of moles then they should take extra care. They should also stress the importance of checking the skin regularly for any changes, such as changes to any moles, and where to go for further advice if changes are detected.
Patients should be given a balanced picture of both the risks of overexposure and the benefits of being out in the sun, such as boosting vitamin D levels and increasing the likelihood of being physically active.
Patients should also be given advice on how to avoid getting sunburnt, when and how to protect your skin, by spending time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest, and on selecting and applying an appropriate sunscreen.
Sunscreens should not be used as an alternative to clothing and shade, rather they should offer additional protection. Choose a ‘broad spectrum' sunscreen, at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15, which offers both UVA and UVB protection.
This should be applied half an hour before and after going out in the sun, and re-applied at least every 2 hours and immediately after being in water even if the sunscreen is water resistant.
The guidance also calls for architects, designers, developers, planners and employers to consider providing areas of shade created either artificially or naturally when designing and constructing new buildings.
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. 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.
“Through this guidance we hope to raise awareness of the risks of UV exposure and help people to protect themselves and others.
“Simple actions can greatly reduce the risk of developing skin cancer - opting to stay in the shade, wearing protective clothing in the sun, avoiding the sun during the middle of the day and using high SPF products can all have an effect.”
Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, and guidance contributor added: “For most people, avoiding sunburn is one of the best ways to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer. Many of us like to make the most of the UK's rare sunny days and should be able to enjoy the sun safely. If we all make sure that our skin doesn't redden or burn in the sun, it could help to reduce the rocketing number of people who develop skin cancer every year. And that's the aim of Cancer Research UK's annual SunSmart campaign.”
26 January 2010