News & Press

The USPSTF Concludes Not Enough Evidence to Recommend Annual Full-Body Skin Screenings

Statement from Tim Turnham, Executive Director, Melanoma Research Foundation

Washington, DC—The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) announcement regarding screening for skin cancer has the potential to undo years of effort to lower the rate of the fastest growing cancer in the United States. In saying that insufficient data exists to support a recommendation for annual skin checks, the USPSTF is only telling a part of the story. 
An estimated 3.3 million American adults will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year. This includes about 144,000 cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. More and more people are being diagnosed with melanoma each year, and every hour of every day, someone dies from the disease. 
The vast majority of melanomas occur on the skin, where they are readily visible. When caught early, melanoma can have a survival rate of almost 90%. Once the cancer has spread, however, treatment becomes quite challenging. 
The USPSTF says “insufficient data exists” to support annual skin checks; sadly, many will read this to mean that annual skin checks are unimportant. In fact this statement means only that the critical research needed to generate such data has not been done. 
This research is important, but time-consuming and costly. The data to support annual skin checks is not likely to be available for many years—if ever. Meanwhile, people may become casual about self-examinations and annual skin checks because they misunderstand the USPSTF statement.
Annual screening is particularly important for people who are at elevated risk– those with red hair, fair skin, light eye color, a family history of melanoma, high number of moles and a history of tanning. 
The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) urges the USPSTF to consider the ramifications of not recommending yearly full body skin checks and encourages people to continue monthly self-exams and yearly full body exams with a dermatologist. 
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About Melanoma
Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and can strike men and women of all ages, races and skin types. With a one in 50 lifetime risk of developing melanoma, nearly 76,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with Stage I-IV melanoma and another 68,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma in situ – totaling nearly 144,000 total diagnoses. 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 the Melanoma Research Foundation
The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) is the largest independent organization devoted to melanoma. 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. Find the MRF on Facebook and Twitter.
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