Teens Motivated by Vanity to Use Sunscreen

Published Online: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Educating teens about the negative effects that sun exposure can have on their appearance may motivate them to use sunscreen more than teaching them about skin cancer, new research suggests.

The study, published online on February 7, 2014, in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, compared the effectiveness of appearance-based video education with health-based video education in improving sunscreen use and knowledge among high school students. The appearance-based video emphasized ultraviolet-induced premature aging, while the health video focused on ultraviolet exposure and skin cancer risk. A total of 50 students participated in the study from February to March 2012.

Six weeks after students watched the videos, those who watched the video about skin cancer had a nonsignificant increase in sunscreen use, while sunscreen use significantly improved among students who watched the appearance-based video. Students who watched the appearance video also applied sunscreen at significantly greater frequencies compared with those who watched the health video. Knowledge about sunscreen significantly improved in both groups, and scores did not differ among them.

“If our endgame is to modify their behavior, we need to tailor our message in the right way, and in this case, the right way is by highlighting consequences to appearance rather than health,” said study author April W. Armstrong, MD, MPH, investigator at the Colorado University Cancer Center and vice chair of clinical research at the Colorado University School of Medicine Department of Dermatology, in a press release.

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