Can Social Media Prevent Skin Cancer for Teens?

The power of social media for health-related influences

Social media is notorious for its impact on teens today, but apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook can also have a beneficial influence on society at large. In fact, the power of social media can be applied to education about indoor tanning. With tanning having a steep rise in teens today and also being a major contributor to skin cancer, researchers reviewed the potential of social media platforms in skin cancer prevention.[1] 

The rate of skin cancer is increasing in America, and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is most common in individuals who are 15 to 29 years old. UV exposure has long been associated with skin cancer, but 55% of teenagers have indoor tanned, and thus, increased their exposure to UV rays at some point in their lives. When analyzing tanning itself, researchers identified that many teens tanned to conform to beauty standards, with social media also being used by the tanning industry to reinforce these principles. With this, many researchers focused on reducing the rate of indoor tanning, thereby reducing the risk of skin cancer, in teens today. One study found that when one school used social media to alert its students of the dangers of indoor tanning and skin cancer, the use of tanning salons among the school’s students decreased by 40% after the social media initiative. Like efforts have also been made by the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer initiative, which identified social media as a major tool to educate the public about skin cancer risks, encourage skin cancer prevention campaigns, and restrict the tanning industry’s advertisements.

Skin cancer is a major health concern, and social media may be a key component of curbing the rate of this disease. While more social media efforts and research are being conducted to explore the potential of social media in preventing skin cancer, the power of today’s tweet may be a major contributor to the decrease of skin cancer tomorrow.

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  1. Falzone AE, Brindis CD, Chren MM, et al. Teens, Tweets, and Tanning Beds: Rethinking the Use of Social Media for Skin Cancer Prevention. Am J Prev Med.2017;53(3S1):S86-S94; PMID: 28818251 Link to research.