April 23 (HealthDay News) -- Showing middle-school students ultraviolet photographs that reveal the sun damage to their faces makes them less likely to get sunburns in the months following, new research says.
Researchers recruited 111 students aged 11 to 13 from Quincy, Mass., which had a melanoma rate higher than expected from 1999 to 2003.
After receiving a sun protection lecture, 83 students also received a UV photograph of their face that shows pigment changes from chronic sun exposure and an explanation of the damage. Twenty-eight students in the control group heard the lecture but did not have a photo taken.
After two months, 36 percent of the group shown the photos reported getting a sunburn, compared to 57 percent of those who didn't have a UV photo taken.
After six months, 51 percent of intervention group reported a sunburn, compared to 64 percent of the control group.
Students said that the UV photo was a helpful tool in teaching risk factors for skin cancer, and the majority had kept them. The preteens with the highest risk factors for melanoma, such as facial freckles, were more greatly impacted and were significantly less likely to report sunburn at two months and again in six months.
The study was published in the April issue of the Journal of the Dermatology Nurses' Association.
Despite public health recommendations to protect children and preteens from sun damage, studies indicate that most children get at least one sunburn each year and that more than a third have three or more per year, said study author Marie-France Demierre, a professor of dermatology and medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
"The potential of UV photographs in improving sun protection behavior among children and preteens, especially those most at risk for melanoma, is enormous," Demierre said. "Every teen should get an ultraviolet photograph of his/her face in school along with routine vaccinations."
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Melanoma, the most serious type, accounts for about 5 percent of cases. There will be about 47,700 new cases of melanoma in this country this year, according to the cancer society, and 7,700 people are expected to die of the disease.
SOURCE: Boston University School of Medicine, news release, April 23, 2009