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Experts argue NICE SPF guidance too low

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Experts are urging the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to rethink their recommendation that factor 15 sun cream should be worn as the minimum level of sun protection, claiming the recommendation is “not in the interests of public health”.

Guidance was issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in January, stating that factor 15 sunscreens which are a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) should be worn as a minimum.

But the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin has featured an editorial urging for the recommendation to be reconsidered, claiming it is much too low and does not reflect how sun creams are actually used by people.

According to experts, all-day protection is only provided by factor 15 if a thick layer of 2mg/cm2 is applied.

This thickness is used by manufacturers as the standard test for SPF.

“In reality, people using sunscreens typically apply much less than this and get no more than half, at best, of the protection indicated by the labelled SPF.”

Sunscreen also runs off the skin, the experts said.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the centre for public health excellence at NICE, said: “We felt it was important, in producing this guidance, to maintain a balance - recognising on the one hand the very real dangers of skin cancer, but also remembering on the other hand that we should not extrapolate from research carried out in much hotter, sunnier climates than our own.”

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