The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) grades its recommendations (A, B, C, D or I) and the quality of the overall evidence for a service (good, fair, poor). The definitions of these grades can be found at the end of the "Major Recommendations" field.
The USPSTF concludes that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routine counseling by primary care clinicians to prevent skin cancer. I recommendation.
The USPSTF found insufficient evidence to determine whether clinician
counseling is effective in changing patient behaviors to reduce skin cancer
risk. Counseling parents may increase the use of sunscreen for children, but
there is little evidence to determine the effects of counseling on other
preventive behaviors (such as wearing protective clothing, reducing excessive
sun exposure, avoiding sun lamps/tanning beds, or practicing skin
self-examination) and little evidence on potential harms.
- Using sunscreen has been shown to prevent squamous cell skin cancer. The evidence for the effect of sunscreen use in preventing melanoma, however, is mixed. Sunscreens that block both ultraviolet A (UV-A) and ultraviolet B (UV-B) light may be more effective in preventing squamous cell cancer and its precursors than those that block only UV-B light. However, people who use sunscreen alone could increase their risk for melanoma if they increase the time they spend in the sun.
- UV exposure increases the risk for skin cancer among people with all skin types, but especially fair-skinned people. Those who sunburn readily and tan poorly, namely those with red or blond hair and fair skin that freckles or burns easily, are at highest risk for developing skin cancer and would benefit most from sun protection behaviors. The incidence of melanoma among whites is 20 times higher than it is among blacks; the incidence of melanoma among whites is about 4 times higher than it is among Hispanics.
- Observational studies indicate that intermittent or intense sun exposure is a greater risk factor for melanoma than chronic exposure. These studies support the hypothesis that preventing sunburn, especially in childhood, may reduce the lifetime risk for melanoma.
- Other measures for preventing skin cancer include avoiding direct exposure to midday sun (between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM) to reduce exposure to UV rays and covering skin exposed to he sun (by wearing protective clothing such as broad-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and sunglasses).
- The effects of sunlamps and tanning beds on the risk for melanoma are unclear due to limited study design and conflicting results from retrospective studies.
- Only a single case-control study of skin self-examination has reported a lower risk for melanoma among patients who reported ever examining their skin over 5 years. Although results from this study suggest that skin self-examination may be effective in preventing skin cancer, these results are not definitive.
The Task Force grades its recommendations according to one of 5 classifications (A, B, C, D, I) reflecting the strength of evidence and magnitude of net benefit (benefits minus harms):
The USPSTF strongly recommends that clinicians provide [the
service] to eligible patients. The USPSTF found good evidence that [the service] improves important health outcomes and concludes that benefits substantially outweigh harms.
The USPSTF recommends that clinicians provide [this service] to
eligible patients. The USPSTF found at least fair evidence that [the service]
improves important health outcomes and concludes that benefits outweigh harms.
The USPSTF makes no recommendation for or against routine provision of [the
service]. The USPSTF found at least fair evidence that [the service] can improve health outcomes but concludes that the balance of benefits and harms is too close to justify a general recommendation.
The USPSTF recommends against routinely providing [the service] to
asymptomatic patients. The USPSTF found at least fair evidence that [the
service] is ineffective or that harms outweigh benefits.
The USPSTF concludes that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routinely providing [the service]. Evidence that [the service] is effective is lacking, of poor quality, or conflicting and the balance of benefits and harms cannot be determined.
The USPSTF grades the quality of the overall evidence
for a service on a 3-point scale (good, fair, poor):
Evidence includes consistent results from well-designed, well-conducted
studies in representative populations that directly assess effects on health
Evidence is sufficient to determine effects on health outcomes, but the
strength of the evidence is limited by the number, quality, or consistency of
the individual studies, generalizability to routine practice, or indirect nature of the evidence on health outcomes.
Evidence is insufficient to assess the effects on health outcomes because of
limited number or power of studies, important flaws in their design or conduct,
gaps in the chain of evidence, or lack of information on important health