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Scared Safe: Pics of Sun's Damage to Face Boost Sunscreen Use

HealthDay News
by -- Steven Reinberg
Updated: Jun 12th 2019

new article illustration

WEDNESDAY, June 12, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- When all else fails, fear may motivate people to protect themselves from the sun.

Researchers found that a photo of a mole being removed and visuals of skin damage did the trick.

Study volunteers were shown photos taken using a VISIA UV camera system. These images spotlight skin damage from the sun's ultraviolet rays that is normally invisible to the naked eye.

"The UV photos, and one particular image of a mole being removed, were the most effective in terms of influencing someone to change their behavior," said study co-author Kevin John. He's an assistant professor at Brigham Young University School of Communications, in Provo, Utah.

"This tells us these are the types of images we need to use to convince people to screen themselves for cancer. Over time, we hope this will cause mortality rates to drop," John said in a university news release.

For the study, more than 2,200 adults were shown facts, stock photos of people in the sun, photos where moles have been removed, and others. In all, 60 variations were tried to find the most effective.

Skin cancer facts and figures did little to change participants' thinking about sun exposure. But John's team found that viewing a single realistic photo of mole removal led participants to say they would use sunscreen and wear protective clothing.

"Just talking about skin cancer, being inundated with facts and mortality rates, all of that is fear-inspiring language, but the images were so powerful that they moved people to intend to take action," John said.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Rates of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, doubled between 1982 and 2011. And non-melanoma skin cancer affects more than 3 million Americans a year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Checking yourself for skin damage that might be cancer and then seeing your doctor can be effective in catching cancer early, when it is easier to treat.

The report was published in the June issue of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

More information

The Skin Cancer Foundation has more about skin cancer.