MONDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors should take the time to counsel children, teens and young adults on the dangers of sun exposure and tanning beds, according to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
But rather than focus on skin cancer, discussions with young patients should center on how ultraviolet-ray exposure can damage the way their skin looks, the task force advised.
"We are not saying to young people to avoid sun exposure and indoor tanning to prevent skin cancer, because that message doesn't work," said Dr. Virginia Moyer, USPSTF chair and a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
"That is the goal, but the message that works is to use appearance-based counseling," she said.
Because most research so far is based on people with fair skin -- who are at the greatest risk of skin cancer -- these new recommendations apply only to them, the authors noted.
Instead of telling these patients about the risk of skin cancer, they should be told that sun exposure leads to ugly skin: "What you end up having is wrinkled, leathery skin," Moyer said.
"If the audience you are trying to reach is young people whose concern about having skin cancer is not very high, then the more effective way to get the message across is to talk about the more immediate effects -- skin damage," she said.
For example, doctors can show patients photos taken of skin with a UV camera to demonstrate the damage UV rays can cause.
The recommendations appeared online May 8 in advance of publication in the July 3 print issue in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Specifically, doctors should counsel children, teens and young adults aged 10 to 24 who have fair skin and no history of skin cancer about skin cancer prevention. Having light skin, hair and eyes increases the risk for skin cancer, as does overexposu
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