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Despite skin cancer prevalence, screening studies lag behind

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Thursday, April 20, 2023 - 3:46pm
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2023 - 3:47pm

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Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., and the Skin Cancer Foundation ranks Arizona third for melanoma incidence and second for melanoma deaths.

But the jury is still out on the risks and benefits of annual screenings for people without symptoms.

“After reviewing the research on screening for skin cancer and primary care, the taskforce found we don't have enough evidence to tell us whether or not screening people without symptoms is beneficial,” said Dr. Katrina Donohue of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

The USPSTF makes recommendations using grades A-D, from “strongly for” to “strongly against.” But the independent panel of experts also issues I statements when not enough research exists to justify a grade.

Donohue says, as in 2016, asymptomatic skin cancer screening still falls into this category.

“An I statement is not a recommendation for or against; it's a call for more research,” she said.

Just-in-case screenings might seem harmless, but they can result in overdiagnoses, unnecessary procedures, potential complications, anxiety and financial burdens.

The team recommends focusing on limiting UV exposure from the sun and from tanning beds.

The USPSTF report also expresses the need for more research regarding skin cancer in Black people. Although melanoma is about 30 times more common in White people, it does occur in people with darker skin. When discovered, it is often at a later stage, when treatment is more difficult and less likely to be successful.


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