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July 26, 2016

Visual Inspection and the US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation on Skin Cancer Screening

Author Affiliations
  • 1Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Department of Dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • 2Department of Dermatology, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
  • 3Division of Dermatology, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Providence, Rhode Island
JAMA. 2016;316(4):398-400. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.9850

In this issue of JAMA, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) provides recommendations for screening for skin cancer. Based on assessment of the available evidence in 2016, the USPSTF concludes that “the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of visual skin examination by a clinician to screen for skin cancer in adults.”1 Thus, skin cancer screening is classified with an I statement, ie, insufficient evidence, the same statement grade and determination made by the USPSTF 7 years ago in its 2009 recommendation.2 However, “insufficient evidence of benefit” is different from “evidence of no benefit”: the public, physicians, and the popular press should avoid this misinterpretation. For the scientific community, the I designation should not be viewed as an indictment but rather an invitation to the public health, medical, and scientific communities to galvanize and to work together in executing well-designed but feasible studies so future recommendations can be of greater public health benefit.

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