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Visual detection of skin cancer questioned

New York residents concerned about the possible health implications of a mole or blemish may be wise to not rely exclusively on a visual skin inspection performed by a doctor, according to researchers from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The independent panel of experts released their recommendations and a review of their findings looking into visual skin cancer screening on Dec. 1. The National Cancer Institute says that 74,000 Americans will have been diagnosed with melanoma by the end of 2015, and almost 10,000 of them will eventually succumb to the disease.

The USPSTF said that the evidence currently available is not sufficient to effectively assess the merits and weigh the risks of visual skin cancer detection methods. According to the researchers, the medical evidence they reviewed was unable to provide a compelling link between clinical visual skin examinations and a reduction in mortality or morbidity. However, the researchers were able to find evidence that such visual skin inspections could cause patients harm.

Misdiagnosis and overdiagnosis were the biggest dangers associated with visual skin inspections. The USPSTF aims to provide physicians with useful information about the effectiveness of treatment options and medical tests, and similar conclusions were drawn after visual skin cancer screening was evaluated by the panel in 2009. Those concerned about skin cancer should avoid ultraviolet rays and stay out of direct sunlight between noon and 3:00 p.m.

While a mistaken skin melanoma diagnosis could lead to unnecessary treatments and an ugly scar, a missed or delayed cancer diagnosis can have truly catastrophic results. A patient who has been harmed in such a manner may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to determine how best to seek compensation for the resulting losses.

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