Behavioral Counseling to Prevent Skin Cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement

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Abstract

Importance

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Although invasive melanoma accounts for only 2% of all skin cancer cases, it is responsible for 80% of skin cancer deaths. Basal and squamous cell carcinoma, the 2 predominant types of nonmelanoma skin cancer, represent the vast majority of skin cancer cases.

Objective

To update the 2012 US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation on behavioral counseling for the primary prevention of skin cancer and the 2009 recommendation on screening for skin cancer with skin self-examination.

Evidence Review

The USPSTF reviewed the evidence on whether counseling patients about sun protection reduces intermediate outcomes (eg, sunburn or precursor skin lesions) or skin cancer; the link between counseling and behavior change, the link between behavior change and skin cancer incidence, and the harms of counseling or changes in sun protection behavior; and the link between counseling patients to perform skin self-examination and skin cancer outcomes, as well as the harms of skin self-examination.

Findings

The USPSTF determined that behavioral counseling interventions are of moderate benefit in increasing sun protection behaviors in children, adolescents, and young adults with fair skin types. The USPSTF found adequate evidence that behavioral counseling interventions result in a small increase in sun protection behaviors in adults older than 24 years with fair skin types. The USPSTF found inadequate evidence on the benefits and harms of counseling adults about skin self-examination to prevent skin cancer.

Conclusions and Recommendation

The USPSTF recommends counseling young adults, adolescents, children, and parents of young children about minimizing exposure to UV radiation for persons aged 6 months to 24 years with fair skin types to reduce their risk of skin cancer. (B recommendation) The USPSTF recommends that clinicians selectively offer counseling to adults older than 24 years with fair skin types about minimizing their exposure to UV radiation to reduce risk of skin cancer. Existing evidence indicates that the net benefit of counseling all adults older than 24 years is small. In determining whether this service is appropriate in individual cases, patients and clinicians should consider the presence of risk factors for skin cancer. (C recommendation) The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of counseling adults about skin self-examination to prevent skin cancer. (I statement)

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