Health professionals

Checking an arm for skin cancer using a dermatoscope

Health professionals play an important role in the prevention, detection and management of skin cancer. We provide education, resources and support for health professionals based on the latest evidence-based cancer information.

The following educational tools and resources for health professionals are intended to provide consistent messages about skin cancer prevention, vitamin D and the early detection and management of skin cancer.

Dermoscopy for Victorian General Practice Program

The Dermoscopy for Victorian General Practice Program has been operating since 2018 thanks to generous donations to Cancer Council Victoria and funding from the Victorian Government.

The program has now provided over 200 Victorian GPs with a fully subsidised handheld dermatoscope and skin cancer training including enrolment to the Australasian College of Dermatologists Practical Dermoscopy course.

Find out more about dermoscopy training

Online education for health professionals

The Prevention and Early Detection of Skin Cancer in General Practice

A six-hour online Active Learning Module will guide GPs through the epidemiology of skin cancers in Australia, skin cancer prevention, UV, vitamin D awareness, along with the diagnosis and management of skin cancers.

This education is also available as three separate two-hour activities:

Points: RACGP: 40 Category 1 CPD points, ACRRM: 30 PRPD points, RCNA: 6 CNE points (Six hours)

Resources for your practice

SunSmart offers a reference card providing information on skin cancer detection methods, treatment, prevention and contact details for Victorian melanoma services.

To order resources for your practice, please contact SunSmart at sunsmart@cancervic.org.au with your request.

SunSmart widget

A widget added to your website enables you to access information without having to open a specific application. In this case, the free SunSmart widget provides you with the UV levels and sun protection times for your location without having to open the SunSmart app.

Download the SunSmart widget

Clinical guidelines and helpful links

Calculate your patient's risk of melanoma within the next five years with the Alfred Health melanoma risk calculator for health professionals.

FAQs about sunscreen in general practice

Are sunscreens safe?

In Australia we have some of the toughest regulations when it comes to assessment of medicines. And sunscreen is no exception. Each ingredient in sunscreen is assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for safety before it is released onto the market for Australians to use – including daily application. 

Sunscreens must also meet the requirements of the Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2604:2012 Sunscreen products – Evaluation and classification.

How do you choose a sunscreen?

We generally say the best sunscreen is the one you’ll use and reapply. Try different products out until you find one you like. If you have an allergic reaction to a sunscreen, try another brand or look for a fragrance-free product such as a toddler or sensitive sunscreen.

When choosing a sunscreen pick one that:

  • has an SPF of 30 or higher
  • is water resistant and
  • is broad-spectrum (meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB).

What does SPF mean?

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of protection sunscreen gives against UVB radiation. The rating tells you how long the sun’s UV would take to redden your skin compared with using no sunscreen.

For example, in theory SPF50 would take you 50 times longer to burn than if you use no sunscreen. In Australia we recommend an SPF of 30 or higher.

In lab conditions, SPF30 filters 96.7% of UVB and SPF50 filters 98%. Both can provide excellent protection.

In reality, we know that many Australians do not apply the right amount of sunscreen to achieve the SPF stated on the bottle, so correct application is key.

How do you apply sunscreen correctly?

For sunscreen to work, correct application is essential. Many Aussies apply too little sunscreen and forget to re-apply. For the best protection:

  • Apply enough: The average-sized adult needs a teaspoon of sunscreen for their head and neck, each limb and for the front and the back of the body. That’s about 35ml of sunscreen or 7 teaspoons for one full body application. Use our sunscreen calculator as a guide.
  • Apply early and reapply: Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before you go outside and reapplied every two hours (whether or not the label tells you to do this). Remember to reapply after swimming or excessive sweating.

Don’t forget to check the expiry date and store below 30 degrees (not in the car!).

Does sunscreen impact vitamin D production?

Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D which is needed for strong bones, muscles and overall health. Levels will naturally fluctuate across the seasons and may be stored in the body for up to 60 days. For most people, only a few minutes of sun exposure is required to maintain healthy levels most of the year.

Population studies have shown that regular use of sunscreen has little effect on vitamin D levels. Given the harmful effects of overexposure to UV radiation, extended and deliberate sun exposure without any form of sun protection when the UV Index is 3 or above is not recommended, even for those diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency.

If a patient is concerned about vitamin D deficiency, you may consider supplementation.

How do I know when sun protection is required?

In Victoria sun protection is recommended from mid-August to the end of April when the average UV is 3 and above. If you work outdoors, are near reflective surfaces (like snow), or outside for extended periods sun protection should be used all year round.

Sun protection times are linked to the UV index and are issued when the UV is forecast to be 3 and above. The  free SunSmart app tells you when sun protection is recommended for your location and shows current UV levels for major cities.

Sun protection times can also be found at the  Bureau of Meteorology website and live UV levels are also available from  ARPANSA.

 

I didn't think young people got skin cancer.