Visual Examples of Sun Damage Could Potentially Reduce Skin Cancer

Physically aging a participant’s face may lead to lower long-term healthcare costs.

It is well known that sun exposure causes skin cancers, such as melanoma, and fair skinned people are most at risk. However, some people do not engage in sun safe behavior, and do not protect themselves as effectively as possible.

Researchers in a recent study found that visual communication techniques may be the most effective manner of conveying sun safe messages to young women. In a study published by Congent Psychology, participants either received a text-based message about sun damage, or they received a photo of themselves that was altered to show premature aging from sun damage.

They found that participants were the most concerned about immediate damage displayed in the visual example. This population was less concerned when given text-based messages or messages that discussed long-term damage.

Researchers noticed that visual examples had an impact on changing behaviors compared with other methods. Participants who received an aged photo of themselves took 2 times the amount of sunscreen samples and 3 times the number of skin cancer pamphlets compared to women who read text about sun damage, according to the study.

Researchers also noticed a 30% decrease in the participant’s belief in the skin’s healing ability if they received the visual example.

“Malignant melanoma is on the increase yet young women often don't protect themselves by using sunscreen,” said study author Jane Ogden, PhD. “Our study explored the best way of framing messages to change their attitudes and promote healthier behavior. The results showed that appearance based messages that used imagery to emphasize sun ageing were the most effective. This sun ageing technology could be used more widely to increase sun screen uptake by young women."