Face-aging app could improve teen skin cancer protection behavior


Teenagers like to spend time in the sun and even engage in tanning, in spite of warnings about skin cancer and aging. A new study indicates that using technology could help change adolescent minds.

As the weather warms, teenagers will want to spend time out in the sun and may even want to go tanning, if facilities are open, despite reminders from doctors to wear sunscreen and avoid tanning. A new study from Brazil published in JAMA Dermatology indicates that face-aging apps that show the impact of ultraviolet (UV) light on the skin could be just the thing to change adolescent minds.1

Researchers ran a cluster-randomized clinical trial that included 1 intervention and a 6-month follow-up in 2018. The trial involved 52 school classes from 8 public secondary schools in Itauna, Southeast Brazil. The intervention was a classroom seminar delivered by medical students. Students’ selfies were put into an app that shows the effect of UV on their future faces and shown to the entire class. Information about UV protection was provided at the same time. Anonymous surveys about UV exposure were collected before the intervention as well as at 3 and 6 months after the seminar.

There were 1573 students in the 52 classes. Daily sunscreen use increased from 110 of 734 to 139 of 607 at the 6-month follow-up in the intervention group. The number of students in the intervention group who performed at least 1 skin self-examination increased significantly from 184 of 734 to 300 of 607. Tanning decreased from 138 of 734 to 92 of 607 in the intervention group. No statistically significant changes were seen in the control group. The intervention also appeared to be more effective for girls than boys.

Investigators said that further study is needed to examine whether the effects are generalizable. However, the trial indicates that face-aging apps could lead to better skin cancer protection behavior.


1.    Brinker TJ, Faria BL, de Faria OM, et al. Effect of a face-aging mobile app-based intervention on skin cancer protection behavior in secondary schools in Brazil: a cluster-randomized clinical trial. JAMA Dermatol. May 6, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2020.0511

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