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SDPA Members Affect USPTF Recommendations on Skin Cancer Screenings

In December 2015, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) requested public comment on a draft recommendation statement on screening for skin cancer. This recommendation statement was intended to apply to adults who do not have any signs or symptoms of skin cancer and who do not have a history of skin cancer. The draft recommendation statement stated that “evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of visual screening for skin cancer in adults.”

The team conducted a systemic review of evidence on visual skin cancer screenings in primary care settings, reviewing more than 12,000 studies. The Task Force focused on whether a visual skin cancer examination by a doctor can ultimately reduce illness and deaths from melanoma. It also looked at possible harms from the screening itself as well as any procedures that occur as a result of the screening. The Task Force found there is not enough evidence to know for certain whether a visual skin cancer screening examination by a doctor reduces deaths from melanoma. It also did not find much information about harms of screening. Ultimately the Task Force is calling for more research to better understand the balance of potential benefits and harms of visual skin cancer examinations for melanoma screening.

SDPA encouraged members to comment and urge the USPSTF to modify their statement. The SDPA requested that the USPSTF avoid a recommendation against screening and instead consider a statement that reflects that there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against screening tests. The USPSTF was responsive to the public comments and modified their statement to read: “There is not enough evidence on the benefits and harms of routine visual skin examinations by a doctor to recommend for or against this skin cancer screening test in adults who have no signs or symptoms of skin cancer.”

Byline: Martha L. Sikes, MS, RPh, PA-C

[image by John W. Schulze]




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