If we were properly mindful, every time we went outside, we’d follow through with the simple steps necessary to minimize our exposure to UV radiation: apply sunscreen and practice sun protective behaviors. But because we’re not, the incidence of skin cancer, especially deadly melanoma, is on the rise.
OK, we need reminders. But, according to a new study, we may have to learn to remind ourselves, because our doctors aren’t doing it nearly as often as they should.
A recent study found that doctors rarely recommend these simple measures during patient visits, even for children (who experience the most sun exposure), and even for patients with a history of skin cancer.
Data reveal that physicians mentioned sunscreen at only 0.07% of patient visits. Physicians did a bit better for patient visits associated with a diagnosis of skin disease, mentioning sunscreen at 0.9% of patient visits. Dermatologists counseled patients the most often, but still not often enough. On visits associated with sunscreen, they mentioned the use of sunscreen to patients at 86.4% of visits. Actinic keratosis was the most common diagnosis associated with sunscreen recommendation. But they didn’t do as well on general dermatology visits, mentioning sunscreen only 1.6% of visits. Even for visits associated with a diagnosis of active or remote history of skin cancer, dermatologists mentioned sunscreen use only 11.2% of the time. Sunscreen was mentioned most frequently to white patients, particularly those in their eighth decade of life, and least frequently to children. The study was based on a survey of 18.3 billion (that’s with a B) US patient visits recorded in the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey over 21 years, from 1989 through 2010.
“The findings are concerning because children and adolescents get the most sun exposure of any age group, as they tend to spend much of their time playing outdoors. Up to 80 percent of sun damage is thought to occur before age 21 years, and sunburns in childhood greatly increase the risk for future melanoma,” according to Kristie L. Akamine, M.D., Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, one of the authors of the study.
Here’s a reminder: Remember your sunscreen and cover up. You’ll be glad you did.