Background There is inadequate data regarding sun protection awareness, personal practice, and patterns of patient education among primary care clinicians.
Methods Anonymous surveys were mailed to physicians in the Departments of Medicine, Family Practice, and Pediatrics at our institution.
Results Of the 578 surveys distributed to primary care physicians, 170 (29%) responded. Of the responding physicians, 116 (68%) reported wearing sunscreen whenever outside, 14 (8%) did so daily, and 12 (7%) never wore sunscreen. Additionally, 54 (32%) reported wearing protective clothing consistently and 100 (59%) did so occasionally. Given a list of preventive medicine issues, sun protection was ranked lowest on a 10-point scale (6.7), behind smoking cessation (9.0), active lifestyle (8.2), and cholesterol control (7.4). Pediatricians placed the highest relative ranking (7.7) for sun protection and were most consistent in providing sun protection education, with 60% reporting this practice in over half of visits, compared to 32% of family physicians and 17% of internists. Among attending physicians, 70% reported wearing sunscreen whenever they are outside, compared to 58% of house-staff physicians. Attending physicians reported providing sun protection counseling more frequently than house-staff physicians (33% vs. 8%). The greatest impediments in providing sun protection counseling were inadequate time during office visits, not thinking about sun protection during office visits, and lack of proper training.
Limitations The response rate to our survey was relatively low. The perceived importance and personal practice of sun protection at our Midwestern academic institution may not reflect those of physicians practicing in other regions or settings.
Conclusions Differences in the perceptive importance and personal practice of sun protection are reflected in the self-reported clinical practice of these primary care physicians. This reinforces the opportunity to educate primary care clinicians to join the public health effort to increase sun protection awareness.