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Statement from Timothy Turnham Regarding U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations on Preventing Skin Cancer

Statement from Timothy Turnham,
Executive Director, Melanoma Research Foundation
Regarding U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations on Preventing Skin Cancer

For Immediate Release: May 8, 2012

The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations for behavioral counseling targeted to youth (ages 10 – 24) are an important step in reducing the incidence of skin cancer, including melanoma.  

As the recommendations acknowledge, however, behavioral counseling has only a limited ability to influence positive health behaviors. Effectively reducing the rate of melanoma incidence is dependent on recognizing the following:  

  • Evidence shows that childhood burns can increase risk of a melanoma diagnosis later in life. Parents clearly have an important role in reducing the incidence of UV overexposure in young children.  
  • Healthy behaviors start young, and certainly younger than 10 years of age. The USPSTF highlights the lack of evidence around the role of parental counseling in skin cancer prevention. However, the MRF advises parents to draw on the lessons learned from other youth-oriented health issues, like nutrition, physical activity, drug use, tobacco use, bullying, etc., and play an active role in teaching their children, from a very young age, the importance of sun safety. Healthcare professionals can serve as an important support for parents in this role.  
  • The evidence demonstrates that melanoma affects people of all skin types, and all populations should be taught about the skin damage that occurs with UV overexposure. 
  • Because, as the USPSTF notes, behavioral counseling has only limited impact, this cannot be the sole strategy for reducing the risk of skin cancer.
    • The FDA must follow through on the overwhelming counsel it received from the scientific and medical community two years ago. Tanning beds must be classified more stringently so as to prevent under-age children from being exposed to their carcinogenic radiation.
    • State and federal policymakers must adopt legislation that will protect minors from the dangers of tanning beds, just as minors are protected from tobacco and alcohol.  

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is increasing at a rate that is faster than any other cancer. The rate of diagnosis in young women has increased eight-fold in the last four decades, according to a recently published report from the Mayo Clinic. It is imperative that approaches to melanoma prevention, using the USPSTF recommendations for appearance-based youth counseling and smart policies to protect youth from UV overexposure, go hand in hand.



Lauren Smith
Jones Public Affairs
(202) 591-4065
[email protected]


About Melanoma
Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and can strike men and women of all ages, all races and skin types. With a one in 50 lifetime risk of developing melanoma, nearly 76,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2012, resulting in over 9,000 deaths. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25- to 29-years-old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15- to 29-years-old.

The majority of melanomas occur on the skin; in fact, melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma can also occur in the eye (ocular, or uveal melanoma), in mucous membranes (mucosal melanoma), or even beneath fingernails or toenails.

About Melanoma Research Foundation
The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) is the largest independent, national organization devoted to melanoma in the United States. Committed to the support of medical research in finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma, the MRF also educates patients and physicians about prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of melanoma. The MRF is an active advocate for the melanoma community, helping to raise awareness of this disease and the need for a cure. The MRF’s website is the premier source for melanoma information seekers. More information is available at www.melanoma.org.