If signs of skin cancer were visible, would that increase your chances of seeing a doctor? A group of professors from the BYU and University of Utah set out to find the most efficient ways to influence people to screen themselves for cancer. The research found that visual stimulation had a significant impact on those whom they studied, a group of more than 2,200 adults ages 18-89 from across the United States. The results showed that visuals of how UV rays can damage skin causes viewers to feel fear which makes them more inclined towards preventive behaviors such as wearing sunscreen.
"Just talking about skin cancer, being inundated with facts and mortality rates, all of that is fear-inspiring language, but the images were so powerful that they moved people to intend to take action," said co-author of the study, Kevin John. He is an assistant professor in BYU's School of Communications.
The study group examined a range of methods including showing people facts, stock photos of other people in the sun, photos where moles have been removed, etc. They used a total of 60 different variations to decide on the most effective method.
Following a review of the material, researchers asked people whether they would be careful about taking preventive measures. The response was positive.
Besides the facts and figures, the researchers managed to use a VISIA UV complexion analysis system to take special UV photos capturing images skin damage on faces of members from the research team. The signs of skin cancer are invisible to the naked eye but the UV photographs capture existing skin damage caused by UV light exposure.
"The UV photos, and one particular image of a mole being removed, were the most effective in terms of influencing someone to change their behavior. This tells us these are the types of images we need to use to convince people to screen themselves for cancer. Over time, we hope this will cause mortality rates to drop," John said.
Funded with a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the study was published online in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.