Oct 18, 2014

Australian Medical Association (NSW) Limited and the Australasian College of Dermatologists Media Release

AMA (NSW) and Australasian College of Dermatologists: Skin cancer checks should not be offered in pharmacies

The AMA (NSW) and Australasian College of Dermatologists Presidents says people should buy sunscreen from chemists but see their family doctor for skin cancer checks.

AMA (NSW) President, Dr Saxon Smith, and the Australasian College of Dermatologists President, A/Prof Stephen Shumack, are critical of advertised in-store skin checks at pharmacies.

“People who suspect they may have skin cancer should head straight to their family doctor.

“It is concerning to see chemists advertising this as an in-store service when a skin check involves a detailed personal and family medical history as well as a thorough medical examination from head to soles,” Dr Smith said.

“Skin cancer, especially melanoma, can be very difficult to diagnose and only doctors have the training and expertise to help.

“Australians, especially those with fair skin, should go to their family doctor for regular skin checks.

“If there is something that needs to be investigated further, your GP is your gateway to specialist treatment from a dermatologist,” A/Prof Shumack said.

“Two out of every five skin cancers diagnosed are not what the patient went to see their doctor about.

“This exposes the difference between doctors and pharmacists: it’s a doctor’s first responsibility to see to the health of their patient while pharmacists are retailers trained in the dispensation of prescription medicine.

“Aside from that, having a skin check in a doctor’s surgery is far more appropriate than in the aisles between the toilet paper and toothpaste,” Dr Smith said.

“It is irresponsible and inappropriate for pharmacies to offer in-store skin checks.

“This is especially so in the case of melanoma, as some of the deadliest types are particularly hard to diagnose.

“This is not something people want to leave in the hands of their pharmacist,” A/Prof Shumack said.

“There are many different types of skin cancer and it’s definitely not always a black mole, for example.

“The best defence against skin cancer is to wear sunscreen and protective clothing and seek shade in peak UV times,” Dr Smith said.

“The next best thing you can do is to know your skin, be observant of changes and to have regular skin checks from your family doctor,” A/Prof Shumack said.


Media contact: Lachlan Jones (02) 9902 8113 / 0419 402 955

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