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Study, video reflect teens’ growing indifference to sunscreen


A new study reveals an alarming statistic about sunscreen: its use by young people has declined significantly.

A new study reveals an alarming statistic about sunscreen: its use by young people has declined significantly.

According to research conducted by Corey H. Basch, Ed.D., an associate professor of public health at William Paterson University, Wayne, N.J., the number of young people who reported wearing sunscreen declined from 67.7 to 56.1 percent from 2001 to 2011. The study also found that there was little decline in the use of tanning devices among adolescents, and that the use of such devices was highest among white females (29.3 percent).

According to a news release, Dr. Basch’s research focuses on health communication, cancer education and cancer screening. The release quotes her as saying, “This research suggests that adolescents continue to put themselves at risk for skin cancer. Future prevention efforts definitely need to be focused at young people.”

“I totally am in agreement as to the study findings,” Helen M. Torok, M.D., a dermatologist in Medina, Ohio, tells Dermatology Times. “I discuss sunscreen in patients over 30 about 80 percent of the time but fail to really educate the younger population. Thus, the fault lies with us, the dermatologists, for failing to stress the importance of photoprotection to our teenage acne patients. We have a captive audience when we are treating the younger population for acne, so we should take advantage of this opportunity and educate them.”

Next: Delivering the message via social media



Some dermatologists believe such efforts will be most effective if delivered via social media.

“This is a generation that doesn’t trust marketing due to the fact that it has let them down in the past,” says dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, M.D., Omaha, Nebraska. “They trust themselves and the ‘crowd’ opinion more than an ad or campaign. This works better than all the shouting, exhorting and pleading we can do as dermatologists.”

An example is a video that went viral on YouTube. Created by photographer/artist Thomas Leveritt, the video is titled “How the Sun Sees You” and is hailed by science-news website redorbit.com as “the best argument ever in support of sunscreen.”

“The video is a wonderful tool, and I would use it in my exam rooms as I am now installing TVs in all my exam rooms and will place leading stories for my patients,” Dr. Torok says.

Dr. Schlessinger agrees.

“This video is a great example of ways that we have to interact with teenagers and millennials,” he says. “We won’t get to them unless we do this, but as in the case of this video and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it is possible to reach them, just not via normal - read old-style - marketing methods.”

Dr. Basch’s study appears in the August issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Preventing Chronic Disease

Related content:

Physicians shouldn't shy from social media

Surgeon general issues call to action to prevent skin cancer

FDA proposes warnings on tanning beds

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