HealthDay News — The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued new recommendations that health care providers counsel children, adolescents and young adults aged 10 to 24 years who have fair skin, and are thus at greater risk for skin cancer, about ultraviolet radiation exposure and skin cancer prevention.

Clinicians should advise these patients to reduce their exposure to the sun by using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing and avoiding tanning booths and outdoor sun, the recommendation states.

“In the current review, the USPSTF notes the significant studies done in young persons that, although using different approaches, describe a consistent picture of moderate behavior change in persons at the age of greatest vulnerability to ultraviolet radiation exposure,” task force member Virginia A. Moyer, MD, MPH, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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The USPSTF determined that these precautions “might be helpful” for skin cancer prevention after performing a literature review of studies published since 2003 about the benefits and harms of such counseling. The new recommendations are classified as grade B, which means there is at least fair evidence that the service improves health outcomes and the benefits outweigh harms.

These are the first guidelines the organization has issued on the topic since 2003, when it determined there was too little information to recommend for or against counseling to prevent skin cancer in patients of any age. Current evidence remains insufficient to recommend counseling for other age groups, the USPSTF noted.

“Better understanding of the effectiveness of counseling on the use of sun-protective behaviors in adults and the effect of UV exposure during adulthood, in terms of risk for skin cancer, would be valuable to address the key evidence gap about counseling for that age group,” the task force wrote.  “Research is also needed to further develop technologies and vehicles for administering relevant interventions for behavior change.”

Moyer VA et al. “Clinical Guidelines. Behavioral counseling to prevent skin cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations.” Ann Intern Med. 2012.