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09-12-2010 | Article

Physicians advise on skin protection measures

Abstract

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MedWire News: Physicians who do not specialize in skin conditions can provide adequate recommendations on sun protection for their patients at high risk for skin cancer, researchers report.

Their study showed that most physicians surveyed knew that ultraviolet (UV) light can induce skin cancer and most recommended the use of sunscreens to their patients.

However, one quarter of those surveyed said they were not able to provide sun protection advice to their patients.

"Knowledge of the UV-induced risk for skin cancer and of the sun protection measures is essential to achieve skin cancer prevention," say Dr N Meyer and colleagues from University Hospital of Toulouse in France.

They add: "Recommendations given by medical doctors have been shown to be associated with higher sun-safety compliance when compared with mass-media campaigns."

The team therefore surveyed 152 physicians on their knowledge of risk factors for skin cancer, sun protection, and about the role of the physician in recommending sub protection.

In all, 71% of the physicians declared having adequate knowledge about sun protection measures, and 64% said they were able to give sun protection advice to their patients.

The most common recommendation was the use of sunscreens (98%), followed by wearing clothes to cover up (96%), regularly checking the skin (91%), avoiding direct sun light exposure (78%), avoiding outdoor activities in the hottest midday hours (73%), and slowly increasing sun exposure in hot temperatures (44%).

The researchers comment in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology that, although using sunscreens was the most common recommendation, its protective effect tends to be overestimated. They caution: "It is well recognized that sunscreens may not be the most efficient measure, and should not be used as the sole agent for effective skin cancer protection."

The team also points out that few physicians advised their patients against using tanning beds and practising progressive exposure to the sun.

Meyer and colleagues recommend that, for physicians, "risk factors of skin cancer and efficient protective measures should be taught in Continuing Medical sessions."

They add: "The interest of a referral to a dermatologist of patients at higher risk of skin cancer could be underlined."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lucy Piper