Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. According to Cancer Council NSW, about two in three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70.
GPs play a critical role in skin cancer treatment – diagnosing and managing most suspected skin cancers in this country. A major new survey of GPs has found that this role has never been bigger and looks at some of the changes to a typical doctor’s caseload over the past two decades.
This study used data from a national, cross-sectional survey conducted from 2000 to 2016 called the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health Study (BEACH). More than 15,000 GPs from across Australia recorded about 1.4 million patient encounters as part of the research – and a subset of those, 65,000 skin-cancer related conditions, were analysed in this paper. Overall, skin cancer-related conditions were 3% of all conditions managed by GPs in the study.
Researchers found that GPs were most often managing solar keratosis (30% of management load), keratinocyte cancer (25%), naevi (11%) and skin checks (10%). Rates of skin cancer-related conditions presenting to GPs increased over the period of the study, particularly for the period 2000 to 2008. There were also changes in presentation between conditions – things like keratinocyte cancers, skin checks and skin lesions went up, while solar keratoses and naevi were stable over time. People presenting with skin cancer problems were more likely to be male, older, living in remote or regional areas, and from low socio-economic areas.
The authors say these findings can help inform the allocation of resources to particular groups in need and help GPs discern which groups of patients may be especially vulnerable.