Evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of visual screening for skin cancer in adults, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
The task force did find that clinicians have modest sensitivity and specificity in detecting melanoma during visual checks; however, evidence also showed that these visual screenings may have negative effects. The evidence did not provide sufficient data to quantify these harms.
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 noted that very few screening studies met their inclusion criteria, highlighting a need for more research. Specifically, the group believes that future research should evaluate the efficacy of targeted screening for patients at high risk for skin cancer.
In 2015, approximately 74,000 people in the United States will develop melanoma, with 9,940 dying from the disease.
“The task force is dedicated to helping Americans avoid skin cancer and lead healthy lives,” said Michael P. Pignone, MD, MPH. “Until we have more research to better understand the balance of benefits and harms of a clinical visual skin exam, we encourage patients to talk to their doctor about any concerns they have about their skin.”