Health experts in the United States have yet to determine the safety and efficacy of full-body visual screening in helping prevent the death of skin cancer patients, a new report says.
Members of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) revealed in their draft report that there is not enough conclusive evidence available to prove that regular skin cancer screenings are either beneficial or harmful to patients. They instead opted not to deliver any recommendations in favor or against regarding the practice.
"After an in-depth review of the benefits and harms of this preventive service, the task force found that there isn't enough evidence to know with adequate certainty whether a full-body visual skin screening exam by a doctor does or does not prevent deaths from melanoma," USPSTF member Dr. Mark Ebell said.
Compared to other malignancies, most forms of skin cancers are not known to cause death in patients. Melanoma, however, which makes up for around two percent of all identified skin cancers, affects an estimated 68,000 individuals annually and kills more than 9,200 of them.
The USPSTF said that close to 74,000 people will likely develop melanoma on their body in 2015 and around 9,940 of these individuals will likely die from the disease.
In their report, experts from the task force examined data collected from 13 different studies and 15 written works on melanoma, skin cancer screening as well as health outcomes of cancer patients. Their goal was to find out if the practice of full-body screening has indeed helped reduced the rate of death from the illness.
While the researchers were able to detect a minor reduction in the number of melanoma deaths, there was no major difference in the mortality of those who participated in the study.
The team was also unsuccessful in finding related studies that evaluated overdiagnosis made by doctors, harmful events associated with the biopsy, or any psychosocial effects that could result from the biopsy that patients take as part of the skin cancer screening.
Experts from the USPSTF could not determine the potential benefits or harm of thorough or more frequent skin cancer screenings, stating that they cannot provide any clear account on the effects of melanoma screening.
They advised that a study on the efficacy of targeted screening should be carried out in the future to identify its impact on individuals who are at high risk of developing skin cancer.