It is unclear whether clinician skin cancer screenings are more beneficial or harmful to people in the United States, according to an article recently published in JAMA.1

Cancers of the skin, including basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, are common in the U.S., though they are often treatable. The United States Prevention Services Task Force (USPSTF) commissioned an evidence review to determine the effectiveness of skin cancer screenings, including reductions of mortality and morbidity, as well as any potential harms.

The review found, however, that evidence was limited, both for effectiveness of screening for the reduction of morbidity and mortality in cases of melanoma, as well as for potential harm.

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The authors write that the potential for harm exists, even if it is difficult to document. One of 23 participants in a reviewed study, for example, underwent an excision for a non-cancerous lesion.

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The USPSTF recommendations update those given in 2009, though it is states that current evidence is insufficient to recommend clinical visual skin examinations. A statement about patient self-examinations was not included.


  1. US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for skin cancer: US preventive services task force recommendation statement. JAMA. 26 Jul 2016. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.8465 [Epub ahead of print]