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Evidence lacking to support oral cancer screening

Wednesday April 10, 2013
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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has found insufficient evidence to recommend whether primary care professionals should perform oral cancer screenings on all adult patients.

The draft recommendation, which is open for public comment, encompasses patients who do not have any signs or symptoms of oral cancer. It does not apply to the practices of dentists or oral health professionals.

"The evidence shows that it is difficult to detect oral cancer and that the evidence is not clear whether oral cancer screening improves long-term health outcomes among the general adult population or among high-risk groups," task force member Jessica Herzstein, MD, MPH, said in a news release. "We need more high-quality research on whether screening tests can accurately detect oral cancer and if screening adults for oral cancer in primary care settings improves health outcomes."

An "I" statement from the USPSTF is not a recommendation for or against screening. It means there is not enough evidence to say definitively whether screening results in more benefit than harm. In the absence of clear evidence, a healthcare professional should consider a number of factors when providing guidance to patients, including current scientific research, expert opinion, professional knowledge and experience, and the health histories, values and preferences of patients and their families, according to the task force.

Public comments on the recommendation will be accepted until May 6. Links to the report and other draft reports for which the USPSTF is accepting comment are available at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/tfcomment.htm.

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