Counseling increases sun-protective behaviors among young patients

An article published in the May 8 online issue of Annals of Internal Medicine examines a recent United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) statement on preventing skin cancer. USPSTF recommends that physicians counsel children, adolescents and young adults aged 10 to 24 years who have fair skin about skin cancer prevention.

Skin cancer affects more than two million American each year. Having light skin, hair and eyes increases a patient’s risk for skin cancer, as does over-exposure to ultraviolet rays at an early age.

Evidence published since a USPSTF recommendation in 2003 suggests that counseling interventions in the primary care setting moderately increase the use of sun-protective behaviors among younger patients. Low-intensity interventions based on appearance proved effective. For example, physicians showed patients photos taken with a UV camera to demonstrate the extent to which UV rays can damage the skin.

Sun-protective behaviors include the use of broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun-protection factor of 15 or greater, wearing hats or other shade-protective clothing, avoiding the outdoors during midday hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and avoiding indoor tanning. Utilizing all behaviors is important to minimizing risk, according to USPSTF.

The Task Force recommendation applies to asymptomatic patients between the ages of 10 and 24 years with no history of skin cancer. There is insufficient evidence to determine if counseling interventions are effective for changing behavior in older adults.

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