Prescribing sunshine: A cross-sectional survey of 500 Australian general practitioners' practices and attitudes about vitamin D

Billie Bonevski, Afaf Girgis, Parker Magin, Graeme Horton, Irena Brozek, Bruce Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study aimed to assess the attitudes, practices and knowledge of general practitioners (GPs) with regards to vitamin D. A cross-sectional survey of a random sample of GPs stratified by location of practice (rural/remote or metropolitan) and employment status (full-time or part-time) in New South Wales (NSW), Australia was conducted. Of 500 respondents, 58.1% (95% CI 53.8-62.4) reported that up to 39% of their tested patients showed vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency and a further 37.7% (95% CI 33.5-41.9) of respondents said that over 40% of their patients were vitamin D insufficient. Vitamin D supplementation and advice to receive more natural sunlight were the most common ways vitamin D insufficiency was managed (97.1%; 95% CI 95.6-98.6 and 82%, 95% CI 78.6-85.4, respectively). Some gaps in knowledge were identified. Most respondents (64%; 95% CI 59.8-68.2) believed that a person of average sun sensitivity required 10 min of direct sun exposure during summer in peak UV time and a further 21.6% (95% CI 18.0-25.2) believed that people required 30 min of direct sun. A third of respondents (33.1%; 95% CI 29.0-37.2) advised their patients to use sun protection at all times during winter. In general, the attitude items showed that respondents expressed greater concern about vitamin D deficiency than skin cancer. The results reveal some confusion in general practice regarding vitamin D, sun exposure, sun protection and skin cancer risk. Some of the advice that GPs are offering may needlessly increase their patients' risk for vitamin D insufficiency or skin cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2138-2145
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Volume130
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • primary care
  • skin cancer
  • Vitamin D

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