Social Media and Skin Cancer

Social Media can have a beneficial influence on society when it comes to skin cancer prevention

Research Spotlight: Teens, Tweets, and Tanning Beds: Rethinking the Use of Social Media for Skin Cancer Prevention.

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, social media and skin cancer can actually be linked. With tanning practices being heavily advertised on social media, and also being a major contributor to skin cancer, researchers reviewed the potential of social media platforms in skin cancer prevention.[1]


Social Media Can Encourage Skin Cancer-Causing and Skin Cancer Prevention Techniques

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.[2,3] 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.[4] 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.[5,6] With this, many researchers focused on reducing the rate of indoor tanning, thereby reducing the risk of skin cancer, through social media.

One study found that when one school used social media to warn against skin cancer and the dangers of indoor tanning, the use of tanning salons among the school’s students decreased by 40% after the social media initiative.[7] 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.[8]


Social Media Can Change How We See Skin Cancer Prevention

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

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  1. Wehner MR, Shive ML, Chren MM, et al. Indoor tanning and non-melanoma skin cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ.2012;345:e5909; PMID: 23033409 Link to research.
  2. Linos E, Swetter SM, Cockburn MG, et al. Increasing burden of melanoma in the United States. J Invest Dermatol.2009;129(7):1666-1674; PMID: 19131946 Link to research.
  3. Bleyer A, Viny A, Barr R. Cancer in 15- to 29-year-olds by primary site. Oncologist.2006;11(6):590-601; PMID: 16794238 Link to research.
  4. Wehner MR, Chren MM, Nameth D, et al. International prevalence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol.2014;150(4):390-400; PMID: 24477278 Link to research.
  5. Ricklefs CA, Asdigian NL, Kalra HL, et al. Indoor tanning promotions on social media in six US cities #UVTanning #tanning. Transl Behav Med.2016;6(2):260-270; PMID: 27356996 Link to research.
  6. Harrington CR, Beswick TC, Leitenberger J, et al. Addictive-like behaviours to ultraviolet light among frequent indoor tanners. Clin Exp Dermatol.2011;36(1):33-38; PMID: 20545951 Link to research.
  7. Aarestrup C, Bonnesen CT, Thygesen LC, et al. The effect of a school-based intervention on sunbed use in Danish pupils at continuation schools: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. J Adolesc Health.2014;54(2):214-220; PMID: 24119418 Link to research.
  8. Force USPST. Final Recommendation Statement. Link to research