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Medical News & Perspectives
October 2, 2013

Survey Finds Physicians Rarely Advise Use of Sunscreen to Patients, Even Those Most at Risk for Skin Cancer

JAMA. 2013;310(13):1328. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.279031

Applying sunscreen and practicing sun-protective behaviors reduces exposure to UV radiation, the only recognized modifiable risk factor for melanoma and other skin cancers. But new research finds that physicians rarely advise these simple measures during patient visits, even for children (who experience the most sun exposure) or for patients with a history of skin cancer.

Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, found that physicians mentioned sunscreen at only 0.07% of patient visits. For patient visits associated with a diagnosis of skin disease, physicians did a little better, mentioning sunscreen at 0.9% of such encounters (Akamine KL et al. JAMA Dermatol. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.4741 [published online September 4, 2013]). The findings are based on 18.3 billion US patient visits recorded in the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 1989 through 2010. The survey collects descriptive data regarding ambulatory visits to nonfederal, office-based physicians.