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Healthcare Providers Not Discussing Sunscreen With Patients

A recent study has shown that although skin cancer is rapidly on the rise, that the rate of sun-protection counseling between health providers and patients is at an all time low. While other cancer prevention was discussed, like the relationship between smoking and lung cancer, skin cancer went alarmingly unnoticed.

In conducting the research, the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey was asked to identify visits in which sunscreen was recommended to patients between 1989 and 2010. There was an estimated 18.3 billion patients visited during this time, and physicians mentioned the use of sunscreen in 12.8 million of them. This ranked at a low 0.07% of patient visits. Furthermore, sunscreen was only addressed in 0.9% of patient visits addressing a skin disease diagnosis. It was discussed the most frequently with white patients in their 70s, and the least frequently to children. This is especially noteworthy, since up to 80% of sun damage occurs before 21 years of age, and childhood sunburns increase the risk of future melanoma.

It is important that all health providers recognize their role in the prevention of skin cancer. Making patients aware of simple lifestyle modifications can save them from serious health risks. These modifications include: avoiding the sun and being in the shade especially between 10am and 4pm, wearing sun-protective clothing, applying and reapplying sunscreen, and avoiding artificial UV light.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is implementing this awareness into through a new set of guidelines that require pediatricians to discuss sun protection at least once a year during examinations. They also are required to tell their patients that they will not develop a deficient level of vitamin D through applying sunscreen, and are strongly encouraged to educate children and adolescents on the risks of skin cancer.

Some of the variables that were identified in effecting the discussion of sunscreen were physician or PA specialty, the presence of skin disease, and patient demographics. The study strongly urges all health providers to make the topic of sun prevention and sunscreen a practice with all their clients. Elevating awareness and education can greatly reduce the rise in skin cancer, and only takes a conversation.



Source: JAMA Dermatol. Published online September 04, 2013. doi:10.1001

Image Credit: Ed Yourdon

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