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Up-Skilling: GPs + Skin Work

October 29, 2019 0 Comments

In General Practice, GPs can further specialise in certain areas that have a great impact on the patients in the community but also their own workload. Skin work is one of those areas in demand with GPs. 

GPs + Skin Work 

Skin Cancer on the Rise

GP Role in Skin Cancer


Skin Cancer on the Rise

The Cancer Council of Australia (CCA) estimates that two in three Australians may be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they reach the age of 70. 

Findings from them (CCA) also suggest that in Australia:

  • Each year skin cancers make up for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers
  • Exposure to the sun is believed to be the main cause 
  • Over 1 million GP consultations happen because of it 
  • Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, roughly two to three times more than countries such as Canada, the US and the UK

There are three main types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The latter being the most dangerous form. To put this in perspective, CCA found that in 2016: 1960 deaths happened due to skin cancer and of those, 1281 were from melanoma. 

Applying sunscreen to reduce the risk of skin cancer

Australia’s Institute of Health and Welfare also published a report about 2016, with findings that skin cancer accounts for the largest number of cancers diagnosed in Australia. That year and the years prior as well. 

The report estimated 13,280 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in Australia that year, and by tracking similar findings from back in the 1980s leading up to 2016 they found interesting changes in the rates of diagnosis. The rate of melanoma for people of a certain age increased during that time from 27 per 100,000 cases to 49 per 100,000 cases in 2016.  But for people under the age of 40 the rate decreased, from 13 per 100,000 cases to 9.4 per 100,000 cases in 2016. 

While this may seem positive and suggest that there are chances for survival , the overall mortality rate has increased – from 4.7 deaths per 100,000 cases to 6.2 deaths per 100,000 cases in 2016. 

Substantial Medicare benefits are also claimed on skin cancer each year. The report estimated that in 2014 alone, around $9.4 million worth of Medicare benefits (40,179 claims) were paid for melanoma and $127.6 million for non-melanoma skin cancer (959,243 claims). 

Heart and doctor instrument-1


GP Role in Skin Cancer

The CCA also recommends patients to see their GP immediately if they think they have any suspicious spots, moles or freckles. Both new ones and if there are any changes to the ones patients already had. 

Qualified General Practitioners are equipped with knowledge to help patients understand their personal risk factors for skin cancer. They can also: 

  • Examine the patient’s skin
  • Treat some types of skin cancers themselves 
  • Refer the patient to a specialist if required 
  • Provide care and follow-ups
  • Provide information on skin cancer prevention

For skin cancer diagnosis, GPs examine the suspicious spots, freckles or moles. If anything is suspected, the GP will do a biopsy. The biopsy will be sent to a laboratory for testing, after which the doctor will inform and discuss the results with the patient. Then if required, further treatment options or referrals to Specialists will be discussed. 

Doctor discussing with his patient

For those interested to find out more, we can suggest a wide variety of GP positions in Australia that require Skin work for suitable doctors. 

Australia’s Future Health Workforce – Dermatology report showed that General Practitioners are a crucial  element in the skin cancer health workforce. Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) data provides a partial picture of the GP + Skin work workforce, such as billings from GPs to Medicare for skin cancer services.

The Medicare data from the recent years reported that in 2015 a total of 379 GPs were classified as performing a high level of skin cancer services, with approx 2,107 services per year.

And 1,140 GPs were classified as performing a moderate level of services, with approx 589 per year.

Medicare skin cancer by service group 2015

Source: Australia’s Future Health Workforce – Dermatology report 2017

Comparing it to the dermatologists workforce, the report showed that each year skin cancer clinic general practitioners are providing services approx 1.5 times that of services claimed with Medicare by specialist dermatologists.

Medicare Items Billed Dermatology Report 2017

Source: Australia’s Future Health Workforce – Dermatology report 2017

The report also suggested that GPs working in a general practice or medical centre and those working in skin cancer clinics diagnose patients with a similar accuracy. 

GPs are the first line of patient care, and the Advance Care Directives (ACD) encourages them to up-skill and further educate in skin cancer surveillance and management.


What are your thoughts on the rise of skin cancer and what GPs in Australia can do to help? We would love to hear from you. 

Please contact one of our friendly team of consultants Today and let us tell you what GP jobs are available around Australia.

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