FRIDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- In a new study that used a special type of photography to unveil hidden signs of sun damage, middle schoolers showed evidence of levels of UV exposure that could raise their risk for melanoma later in life.
Not only can the technology spot who is most vulnerable to the ravages of too much time spent tanning, the researchers noted, but it could also be used as a powerful deterrent to teenagers who think basking in UV rays is a healthy habit.
"There's two issues here," explained study co-author Dr. Robert Dellavalle, from the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver. "One is that there's nothing better for keeping teenagers out of the tanning booth than showing these pics. What we didn't know before was if these ugly pics were just ugly pics that scare people, or if they actually correlated with skin cancer. Now we've found that they do. When you have lots of moles, have blue eyes or are a redhead -- all things we know are associated with greater melanoma risk -- you have uglier UV photos," he said.
"And another surprising thing," Dellavalle added, "is that at age 12 and 13 we're already seeing a lot of sun damage. And because seeing this damage in UV photo form is sort of like meeting your inner zombie, this could be a great tool in getting kids to think about sun safety in a more personal way."
Dr. Ryan Gamble, who conducted the study while a postdoctoral researcher in Dellavalle's lab and who is now a dermatology resident at the university, and colleagues released their findings online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Gamble pointed out that one in 50 Americans will face a melanoma diagnosis in their lifetime.
UV photography makes visible so-called "mottled pigmentation," dark spots and freckling that indicate sun damage that is otherwis
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