Skin cancer affects more than 2 million Americans each year, according to background information from the USPSTF.
This recommendation is a change from the group's previous statement, which said that evidence was insufficient to be able to make a recommendation at that time, Moyer said.
"We now have data that is pretty good that counseling adolescents and young adults who are fair-skinned to avoid sun exposure, using counseling that is appearance-based, works," she said.
Moyer noted that early skin damage is a precursor to skin cancer later in life. "But by the time people are concerned about the risk of skin cancer it's too late. The damage has been done," she explained.
Appearance-based counseling by doctors can change behavior, Moyer said. "It should be part of well-person exams for fair-skinned people," she added.
Right now there is not enough evidence to recommend counseling adults about the dangers of UV exposure, the report noted.
Dr. Jeffrey Salomon, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, said he isn't convinced that counseling children is enough to get them into the habit of protecting themselves from UV exposure.
"It is always a challenge to change people's behaviors," he said. Counseling and media campaigns aren't enough. These changes must be taught early, Salomon added.
In Australia, schools have an integrated program about sun protection, a large media campaign and widespread availability of sun-protection clothing and other products, he pointed out. Yet, studies show that even in Australia, the country with the highest incidence of dangerous skin cancers, media announcements only have short-term benefits in getting people to comply, he noted.
"I think that there is a clear parental responsibility to protect one's child from the largest-known cancer risk: the sun," Salomon s
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