Pharmacy skin cancer checks slammed by dermatologists

22 October, 2014

People should buy sunscreen from chemists but see their family doctor for skin cancer checks, according to the presidents of the Australasian College of Dermatologists (ACD) and AMA (NSW).

AMA's Dr Saxon Smith and the ACD's President, A/Prof Stephen Shumack, spoke critically of pharmacies that advertised in-store skin checks.

"People who suspect they may have skin cancer should head straight to their family doctor," Dr Smith said.

"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.

"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."

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

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

'Stick to responsibility'

A/Prof Shumack said: "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.

"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 have done in pharmacy setting.

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

"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."

Source: AMA (NSW)