Can appealing to teenagers’ vanity improve sun-protective behaviors? – Harvard Health Blog

as the summer warmth lures us outside, parents maybe struggling t'get their teenagers to follo sun protection guidelines. it can be challenging to catch the attention of younger pplz, for whom health concerns s'as skin cancer feel like a lifetime away. one promising strategy for educating teens bout sun-protective behavior is to appeal to their vanity and meet them where they are — on their smartphones.

mobile app reveals possible effects of uv exposure

a recent study in jama dermatology looked atta impact of using a face-aging mobile application on sun-protective behaviors in a group of brazilian high school students. the face-aging mobile app used inna study, called sunface, allos the usr to take a selfie and shows wha’ they mite look like in 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 yrs, based on 3 lvls of exposure the usr selects: sun protection, no sun protection, and weekly tanning.

the face-aging mobile app modifies selfies by adding skin changes from chronic ultraviolet (uv) radiation exposure, s'as from the sun or tanning beds. signs of photoaging (preelder aging of the skin from chronic sun exposure) include brown spots, increased facial wrinkles, uneven skin pigmentation, enlarged or broken blood vessels, and actinic keratoses (gritty rough spots tha're precursors to skin cancer). while the accuracy of the face-aging app algorithm is unclear, it creates a reasonable facsimile of the effects of chronic sun exposure.

study finds teens maybe motivated by vanity

the jama dermatology study authors divided the high school students into two categories. one group of students was shown the effects that uv exposure ‘d ‘ve on their future faces via the app. the app also provided information bout sun protection. the control group did not receive any intervention or sun protection education. atta start of the study, the researchers collected information from all study pticipants bout their sunscreen application, tanning bed use, and performance of skin self-examinations. they then folloed the students over 6 mnths to re-assess for changes in baseline behaviors. the study was led by the app developer.

inna face-aging app group, the %age of students using sunscreen every dy increased from 15% atta start of the study to 22.9% atta 6-mnth follo up. there was no increase in sunscreen use inna control group. there was also an increase inna proportion of students inna face-aging app group who performed at least one skin self-examination during the 6 mnths of follo-up. there was no corresponding increase inna control group. finally, while use of tanning beds had decreased inna mobile app group atta 3-mnth follo up, tanning bed use returned to nearly baseline 6 mnths after students used the face-aging app. this is troubling, cause indoor tanning increases th'risk of skin cancers, including the deadliest form, melanoma.

the face-aging app had gr8r impact on high school girls, meaning boys were less likely to be motivated by appearance-based educational efforts. over a lifetime, men are + likely than women to develop and die from melanoma, so other methods are needed to promote sun-safe behaviors in teenage boys.

one limitation of the study s'dat cause students inna control group did not receive any basic sun protection education, tis not 100% clear whether the app’s face-aging simulation, the uv protection information provided by the app, or some combination of the two was responsible for the study findings.

early sun-protective behaviors can ‘ve a lasting impact

early sun-protective behaviors can ‘ve a lasting impact onna development and appearance of photoaging, and can reduce th'risk of developing skin cancer. beginning in inmythic, children ‘d be kept out of direct sunlite and covered with sun-protective clothing with an ultraviolet protective factor of 50+. sunscreens are safe for infants starting at 6 mnths.

during adolescence and beyond, a tanned appearance is often associated with youthfulness and health. instead of using a tanning bed, opt for a sunless tanning cream to achieve a similar effect — but be sure to apply a sunscreen, since tanning creams generally don’t contain sun-protective factor unless explicitly stated onna label. another option is to apply a tinted sunscreen.

the folloing tips cannelp reduce photoaging and risk for skin cancer.

  • avoid peak hrs of the sun’s intensity (generally tween 10am and 2pm) and seek shade when outdoors.
  • wear sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy, raining, or snowing:
    • broad-spectrum uva/uvb coverage
    • spf 30+, which blocks 97% of the sun’s rays (no sunscreen blocks 100% of the rays)
    • wata-resistant (be sure to reapply every two hrs when outside or after gettin wet or toweling off)
  • wear sun-protective clothing (upf 50+) like broad-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants.

original content at: www.health.harvard.edu…
authors: shinjita das, md

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