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Detecting and Preventing Skin Cancer for Individuals With Intellectual Disabilities

By: Bryna Goeking
Posted: Friday, April 5, 2024

A recent study, conducted by Larisa J. Geskin, MD, and colleagues at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York, suggested that individuals with intellectual disabilities may face a heightened risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer. The team reported their findings at the 2024 American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) Annual Meeting (Poster 54567). Addressing a significant research gap in understanding the relationship between intellectual disabilities and skin cancer, the authors screened six articles on the topic. They found evidence that individuals with disabilities may receive a skin cancer diagnosis at a more advanced stage than those without intellectual disabilities. 

“Results showed that people with disabilities had elevated odds of skin cancer diagnosis compared to people without disabilities,” they stated. The authors screened more than 1,300 articles, of which 6 discussed skin cancer screening, diagnosis, prevalence, presentation, or treatment in individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Based on their findings, people with intellectual disabilities reported less frequent total-body exams, sunscreen use, and self-skin exams than people without such disabilities, the authors said. Furthermore, people with intellectual disabilities had an elevated risk of being diagnosed with melanoma at a more advanced stage, according to one article.

The authors called for enhanced screening, prevention, and diagnosis of skin cancer in individuals with intellectual disabilities as well as more research on the topic. They noted these individuals face unique barriers to care and therefore require a strategically designed skin cancer screening recommendation; this may include providing more information about skin cancer risks and severity to the individuals and their caregivers, physicians, and dermatologists.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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