Task Force Issues Stronger Skin Cancer Prevention Guidelines

05.22.2018

kids at the pool

Healthcare professionals should start early – very early – with advice to help young patients who are fair-skinned to avoid skin cancer, says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of national experts on disease prevention.

The Task Force’s latest recommendation was published online on March 20 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It encourages clinicians to provide counseling on skin cancer prevention to any patient with a fair skin type who is between the ages of six months and 24 years, including the parents of young children with fair skin types.

The guidance updates another recommendation from 2012, when doctors were advised not to begin the conversation about skin cancer education until children reached the age of 10.

Counseling Encourages Sun-Protective Behaviors

According to the Task Force, there is evidence that counseling for children, parents and young adults is effective at promoting sun-protective behaviors that prevent skin cancer later in life. These behaviors include applying sunscreen, donning sun-protective clothing and avoiding tanning beds.

In addition, the Task Force found there is more evidence that counseling on skin cancer prevention can help fair-skinned adults too. They suggest that clinicians decide on a case-by-case basis whether counseling on skin cancer prevention is appropriate for patients over the age of 24.

The Risk of Sunburn

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer among Americans. Too much time in the sun can cause short-term and long-term damage, especially for those with freckles and light skin who burn easily in the sun. Because their skin is thinner and more sensitive, children are more susceptible to sunburn than adults. Children may also get three times more sun exposure than adults. A study found that getting five or more blistering sunburns before age 20 may raise the risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, by 80 percent.

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