Life Wellbeing GPs need to be trained to meet skin cancer ‘tsunami’

GPs need to be trained to meet skin cancer ‘tsunami’

skin cancer
There are about 500 dermatology specialists in Australia, too few to manage a looming crisis. Photo: Getty
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A senior cancer epidemiologist is warning that Australia faces a “tsunami” of skin cancer cases over the next 20 years, and too few trained doctors to meet the challenge.

With only about 550 dermatology specialists in the country, Professor Michael Kimlin, a director of the Skin Cancer College Australasia, says GPs will need to be trained up and accredited to meet the crisis.

“It is a tsunami coming,” said Professor Kimlin, a researcher at Queensland University of Technology, in an interview with Australian Doctor.

He said the real problem is “we have a looming skills shortage”.

Disturbing new report

The warnings came on the back of a new report that estimates a “roughly 50 per cent” increase worldwide in new melanoma cases, and a 68 per cent increase in deaths by 2040.

In 2020, there was an estimated 325,000 new melanoma cases and 57,000 deaths, globally.

An ageing and growing population will bring 510,000 new cases and 96,000 deaths by 2040.

This is especially problematic for Australia: Our incidence rates are more than double those of anywhere else in the world.

All of this is pretty grim, but …

The study authors suggest that the upswing could be tempered through early detection, “curative” treatment, and public health prevention measures.

Maybe. Strong messaging about staying out of the sun hasn’t slowed the rate of skin cancer in Australia.

In 2017, melanoma of the skin was the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia.

Last year, it moved into the third spot.

This is a challenge we’re not ready meet

The short version: With so few specialists, and “given the already stretched GP workforce”, Professor Kimlin said it was “critical” to start planning for how primary care would meet the blowout in cases.

Professor Kimlin suggests that a “robust” national accreditation system of GP training and standards would “not only give GPs the reassurance they need to diagnose and manage melanoma, but give patients reassurance their GP is the right person to see”.

An article published by the Skin Cancer College Australasia advised: “Skilling up GPs in best-practice skin cancer care is the most cost-effective way of addressing rising case numbers.”