If One Way Doesn’t Work . . .

teen_sunscreenA recent study from the University of California Davis and the University of Colorado tried to assess the best approach in educating teenagers about sunscreen use.  Students viewed one of two videos: either (1.) a video that focused on the premature aging and appearance effects of tanning, or (2.) a video that explained the risk of skin cancer from tanning.

It would help if I actually had these videos to show you on this blog, as they were not much longer than a typical YouTube clip.  However, please be assured that these movies were informative without being exploitative.

Interestingly, the students who viewed the 2nd video, the one that focused on skin cancer, did not show any significant increase in sunscreen usage, and averaged only 1-3 days of sunscreen use per week.  The group that viewed the 1st video that focused on appearance or aging, on the other hand, showed a more significant increase in sunscreen usage of up to 5 days per week.

The aging-focused group also applied sunscreen more frequently during the day than those in the cancer-focused group.  The first group of students used suncreen an average of three times a day, versus only one time per day for the second group.

The study’s authors concluded that appearance-based video education appeared to be more effective in promoting sunscreen usage and knowledge in adolescents, especially teenagers. Also, using educational videos focusing on premature aging caused by sun exposure was more likely to improve proper sunscreen usage frequency than videos that focused on skin cancer risks alone.

These findings were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in early February.  They may prompt changes in the advertising of sunscreen and educational efforts directed towards teens.

Regardless of how teens get the message, it is encouraging to know that they are getting it.  No one ever plans to get cancer of any kind when they are young, but seeing visible evidence of the consequences of not protecting one’s skin from the sun, and knowing something can be done to prevent it, is a great way to change one’s thinking.

I posted news about a separate study on Maine Laser Skin Care’s Facebook page a few weeks ago, only this one focused on teens who watched one video: one that focused on skin cancer.  When I read that the findings were almost identical to this study’s second group, I felt a little let down.

Fortunately, it’s good to know that putting the message another way can actually reverse many people’s decision in the right direction.  Hopefully we’ll see fewer cases of skin cancer 20 years from now too.

However, even if you’re not a teenager, it’s still important for you to use your sunscreen every day, even in the winter.  If you’re not afraid of the risk of skin cancer, then you probably don’t want your skin looking any older.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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