Task force: Appeal to vanity to discourage youth tanning

November 23, 2011

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is urging physicians to appeal to vanity when counseling young people about the risks of overexposure to UV rays.

Rockville, Md. - The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is urging physicians to appeal to vanity when counseling young people about the risks of overexposure to UV rays.

In its recently issued draft recommendations, the Rockville-based task force advises doctors to counsel fair-skinned youths ages 10 to 24 about minimizing UV light exposure to reduce the risk of skin cancer - but to focus on appearance rather than on cancer.

The online Wall Street Journal quotes USPSTF Chairwoman Virginia Moyer, M.D., as saying, “We now have a reasonable level of evidence that we are able to change behavior in teens and young adults with a variety of counseling approaches that were appearance-based.

“When you tell a 14-year-old that he or she should avoid excessive sun so they won’t get skin cancer when they are old, they don’t worry because they don’t think they are ever going to get old - but they are worried about their appearance now,” says Dr. Moyer, who also heads the Academic General Pediatrics Section at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

The Journal reports that according to past studies, females in their late teens - the demographic most likely to tan indoors - are most likely to alter their behavior when shown booklets and videos on photoaging and participating in peer counseling sessions. Dr. Moyer notes that there are computer programs that can simulate how UV rays can make a young face age over time.

The new USPSTF counseling recommendations are based on a review of evidence published earlier this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The review stated that studies show appearance-focused counseling is associated with a decrease in skin pigmentation or self-reported sun exposure, and that such counseling can easily be done by primary care providers.

As noted in the recommendation, physicians may have to invest in materials or technologies to use in appearance-based counseling. On the other hand, insurers may be more likely to cover preventive services recommended by the task force, thus giving physicians an incentive to offer them.

Go back

to the

Dermatology Times eNews

newsletter.