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Skin Cancer Prevention Needs To Start Young, Federal Task Force Recommends

New proposed skin cancer prevention recommendations call for doctors to discuss the risks of skin cancer with any patient who has fair skin between the ages of six months to 24 years old. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of national experts, issued draft recommendations (PDF) on skin cancer counseling for patients in a special bulletin on October 10, 2017.

The new guidelines decrease the recommended age of behavioral counseling for skin cancer and appropriate skin exposure and tanning bed exposure risks from 10 years old to six months.

The draft recommendation calls for doctors to counsel their patients on ways to prevent skin cancer. This includes offering counseling to anyone with fair skin between the ages of six months and 24 years old, which means parents of young children with fair skin should also be counseled concerning the risks and prevention methods for their children.

Research published in June indicates more than 20% of indoor tanning salons across the country fail to comply with restrictions against teens using tanning beds. Indoor tanning bed use is one risk factor that greatly increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer.

The new draft guidance also indicates some patients over the age of 24, depending on the patient’s situation and risk factors, should also be counseled considering skin cancer risks and prevention methods.

The Task Force indicated there was previously not enough evidence to call for counseling for adults over 24 years old.

“Now, there is more evidence that counseling people to practice sun protective behaviors can benefit some adults with fair skin,” Task Force member Dr. John W. Epling, Jr., said in the press release. “When deciding whether to counsel adults over the age of 24, clinicians should talk with their adult patients about their risk for skin cancer.”

The task force highlighted preventions, including sunscreen, wearing sun protective clothing, and avoiding indoor tanning beds. They call for behavioral counseling for patients in those age ranges who are fair skinned, have freckles, who burn easily and may be at higher risk because of a history of sunburns, tanning bed use, or prior skin cancer.

The new proposed guidelines expand guidelines issued in 2012 that advised counseling for patients ages 10 to 24 years old. At that time, they decided there was not enough evidence to recommend behavioral counseling for patients over 24 years old.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation during childhood and adolescence increases a person’s risk of skin cancer later in life.

A recent report indicated more than a quarter million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. in 2015 are attributable to indoor tanning bed use.

Recent studies have indicated teen indoor tanning bed use has dropped over the past six years, following stricter tanning bed laws and increased awareness among doctors, patients and parents.

Public comment on the proposed draft will be accepted until November 6, 2017.

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