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August 2009

Screening for Skin Cancer: Absence of Evidence

Arch Dermatol. 2009;145(8):926-927. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2009.130

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.break/—Carl Sagan

If early melanomas can be detected by full-body skin examination (FBSE) and removed surgically, doesn't screening for skin cancer make sense? Then why shouldn't we recommend this approach for our patients? These questions summarize a common reaction to a recommendation by the US Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF), an organization lauded for using an evidenced-based approach. In a recent update1,2 regarding skin cancer screening, the USPSTF concluded: “The current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for skin cancer by primary care clinicians or by patient skin self-examination.”1(p18)

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