In fact, use of sunscreen among users of the app increased by roughly 50 percent over a six-month period, researchers report.
The app, called Sunface, allows users to take selfies and shows them how their faces can age as a result of excessive exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, or from tanning beds. It is available on Google Play, Apple’s App Store and other platforms.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide. In all, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer before they reach 70 years of age, and almost 7,000 will die from melanoma, the most severe form of the disease, in 2020 alone, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Research suggests that tanning damages skin cells and speeds up visible signs of aging. It may also lead to skin cancer.
For the JAMA Dermatology study, a multi-national team of researchers assessed the potential benefits on the app as an educational tool among nearly 1,600 students in grades nine through 12 in southeastern Brazil. The researchers surveyed them on their approach to skin protection twice — once at the beginning of the study and again six months later.
About half the participants, who had a mean age of 16, were asked to use the app, while the rest were not. Just over half the participants, 52 percent, were female.
After six months, the authors saw the percentage of young people who used the app report using sunscreen increased from 15 percent to nearly 23 percent. Similarly, among app users, the percentage of young people who indicated that they performed at least one skin self-exam doubled, from 25 percent to nearly 50 percent.
In comparison, the percentage of those who did not use the app that reported regular sunscreen use remained at 15 percent, while the number that performed at least one skin self-exam stayed steady at 26 percent.
Additionally, use of artificial tanning products declined slightly among app users, from roughly 19 percent to just over 15 percent.