September 03, 2019
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Personalized advice improves sun protection among patients

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Patients who received individualized advice directly from their general practitioner improved their sun protection, according to findings from a randomized controlled study.

“Skin cancers are the most rapidly increasing cancer forms in many western societies. As a consequence, the first line of care providers (in most cases primary care/the general practitioner/family physician) need to be appropriately prepared to be able to more efficiently handle the increasing number of patients in need of having a skin check, but also to act preventively towards the disease,” Magnus Falk, MD, PhD, associate professor in the division of community medicine and primary care at Linköping University in Sweden, told Healio Primary Care.

“Since lifestyle counseling is one of the major tasks commonly performed in primary care, targeting various diseases or risk factors, we considered it to be of great interest and importance to investigate whether sun protection advice would in reality appear to be beneficial and worthwhile, in a long enough perspective,” he continued.

Falk and colleagues randomly assigned more than 300 participants to one of three intervention groups. In group one, the general practitioner sent a letter detailing how the patient could increase their sun protection (n = 116). In group two, the clinician verbally conveyed similar information (n = 97). In group three, the general practitioner orally discussed sun protection tips, and the patient also underwent a skin ultraviolet-sensitivity photo test (n = 96). The baseline questionnaire was administered again after 3 and 10 years.

Researchers observed statistically significant declines in all groups in the mean scores for sun exposures over time. In addition, a significantly greater decrease in mean score occurred in the second and third groups vs. the first group (P < .01). The skin ultraviolet-sensitivity photo test had no impact on that intervention’s success.

“The results indicate that sun protection advice to reduce skin cancer risk may be of just as natural significance to communicate in primary care as other common lifestyle counseling (eg, physical activity or tobacco use),” Falk said in the interview.

Falk said larger multicenter studies are needed validate the findings before they can be implemented in a primary care setting.

“The shortage of time and personnel resources constitute the major barrier to implementation, since the demands on primary care physicians tend to continuously increase. If repeated studies can provide a strong evidence for sun protection advice to be beneficial, the investment in a potential decline in future skin cancer incidence would justify the increased resources possibly needed to achieve it,” he said. – by Janel Miller

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.