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Can a face-aging mobile app influence skin cancer protection behaviour?

Many young people believe that a tanned appearance makes them more attractive, and yet exposure to UV radiation is a risk factor for developing melanoma. With this in mind, almost 1,600 secondary-school students in Brazil participated in a pilot study that looked at whether a face-aging mobile app, Sunface, could change their skin cancer protection behaviour.


The students were asked to take a selfie and then use the app to show the effects on their face of daily sun protection, no sun protection or weekly tanning at five to 25 years in the future. The study aimed to see whether the app changed daily sunscreen use or tanning habits, and skin self-examination practices from a control group that did not use the app.

After six months, daily sunscreen use increased from 15% to 23%, tanning decreased from 19% of students to 15% and skin self-examinations almost doubled from 25% to 49% in the students who had used the app. No significant changes were observed in the control group. Overall, the app was more effective in changing girls sun-protection behaviour than boys.

This study suggests that face-aging mobile apps can increase skin cancer protection by influencing adolescent behaviour.

By Irma Shaboian in Canadian Skin. 2020; 11(3): 9.

Link to original study in JAMA Dermatol. 2020;156(7):737-745 here