USPSTF (U.S. Preventive Service Task Force) claims that skin cancer screenings might not be effective for melanoma. This is a conclusion of their recommendations draft on skin cancer screening.
The medical community has been debating for years trying to find a balance between detecting cancer tumors in early stages and avoiding the harm that might be resulted from unnecessary procedures, such as the removal of healthy tissue.
Analyzing the pros and cons of the preventive full-body screenings, USPSTF hasn’t been able to establish whether they should recommend it or not. Dr. Mark Ebell, one of the researchers in the team which has issued the recommendations and a Professor at the University of Georgia claims that there isn’t enough evidence to say for sure that a full-body visual screening by a clinician prevents melanoma deaths.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 74,000 people affected this year, of which for about 10,000 it will probably be fatal. Even if the majority of skin cancers are not fatal, melanoma, which accounts for about 2 percent of the cases, kills most of the people it affects.
The guidelines issued by USPSTF are used by insurance companies to determine which treatments and screenings are they paying for. Their last recommendations, from 2009, had also found too little evidence regarding the benefits of skin cancer screenings.
One of the trials which influenced their decision is coming from Germany. In one region there has been a powerful public awareness campaign lasting for about two years. Researchers have found a reduction of 48 percent in the deaths caused by skin cancer. In the case of melanoma, the campaign has saved one life from every 100,000 screened people.
From the screened patients, about 4.4 percent had a skin excision following doctor’s suspicion but the majority of the biopsies have shown that the removed tissue wasn’t cancer. For every 28 biopsies performed, doctors found one case of melanoma.
However, USPSTF’s recommendations are focusing on melanoma, excluding the vast majority of other skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma which might cause severe damage to the tissue and even death.
In conclusion, people should not be discouraged from taking full body screenings since besides melanoma, other types of more frequent skin cancers can also affect them. More than that, nobody ever knows if they are that case out of 100,000 with a melanoma.
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