New York: The threat of looking old and premature aging - and not the increased skin cancer risk owing to ultraviolet (UV) exposure - leads teens to wear sunscreen, claims significant research.
"You can tell that when we talk about the skin cancer risk, it doesn't faze youth. But when you talk about premature wrinkling and aging, they listen a little more closely," said April W. Armstrong, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in the US.
To understand this behaviour, researchers went to local high schools to recruit 50 youth.
They were asked to complete questionnaires demonstrating their knowledge about UV light and use of sun-protective behaviours.
Then young students were randomised into two groups, one of which viewed the health-based video that emphasised skin cancer risk and the other viewed video that emphasised cosmetic changes due to UV exposure.
Six weeks later, all subjects again completed questionnaires that showed the knowledge they retained and changes in sun-protective behaviours.
Despite knowing the skin cancer risk from UV exposure, the group that had watched the health-based video showed no significant increase in their sun-protective behaviours.
On the other hand, the group that had been shown the video emphasising cosmetic changes reported a dramatic increase in the use of sunscreen.
"For teenagers, telling them UV exposure would lead to skin cancer is not as effective as we would hope," said Armstrong.
"We need to tailor our message in the right way and in this case the right way is by highlighting consequences to appearance rather than health," he contended in the study appeared in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.