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Most Australian GPs still believe the myth than 10 minutes of sun a day is enough – June 2011

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

Billie Bonevski1,*,†, Afaf Girgis1, Parker Magin2, Graeme Horton2, Irena Brozek3, Bruce Armstrong4
International Journal of Cancer DOI: 10.1002/ijc.26225

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 minutes 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 minutes 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 GPs are offering may needlessly increase their patients' risk for vitamin D insufficiency or skin cancer.
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See also VitaminDWiki