New research has identified the need for clear guidelines on sun exposure limits for patients with vitamin D deficiency, with 85 per cent of general practitioners advising above the recommended safe levels of UV exposure.
Published in the International Journal of Cancer, the study found that there is a lack of clear information for GPs regarding vitamin D, sun exposure, sun protection and skin cancer risk.
The survey of 500 NSW GPs was a joint project between the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Health Research and Psycho-oncology (CHeRP), Cancer Council NSW and the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI).
Lead researcher Dr Billie Bonevski said the majority of GPs reported vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency in around 40 per cent of their patients.
“Eighty-five per cent of doctors were advising their patients to spend 10 minutes or more in the sun, therefore potentially increasing the risk of skin cancer,” Dr Bonevski said.
“The research found that doctors believed it was more important for their patients to get enough vitamin D rather than stay out of the sun for cancer prevention.”
The survey highlighted the lack of a single clear and concrete recommendation for the amount of time in direct UV required for adequate vitamin D. This is, in part, because achieving adequate exposure depends on a number of variables such as skin type, season, time of day, latitude and cloud cover.
Dr Bonevski said given Australia’s high UV levels, sun protection remained a significant public health priority.
“The clear message from the study is the need to ensure there is consistent advice and resources that are easily available for doctors so they can provide their patients with best practice care.”
The research group have recently been funded by the Cancer Institute NSW to develop a web-based education tool for GPs on vitamin D.
HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.
Media contact: Dr Billie Bonevski on 02 4913 8619 or 0400 449 388.