The authors noted that the technology has already been used to focus attention on sun safety and the dangers of overexposure among college students and middle schoolers.
However, only one small study of just eight children has explored how the sun damage revealed in such photos correlates with known risk factors (having fair skin, blue eyes, red hair, and/or visible facial freckling) for melanoma.
In this latest study, the researchers focused on 585 boys and girls who were born in 1998, and were 11 or 12 at the study's start. Almost 80 percent were non-Hispanic white youths.
The faces of all the children were photographed with eyes closed and without sunscreen, make-up or moisturizer in three formats: standard photography; so-called cross-polarized photography (using filters to block unwanted light reflection); and UV photography.
At the same time, full-body skin exams were conducted by a team comprised of a dermatologist, pediatrician, medical student and pediatric nurse. Eye color was noted, alongside indications of freckling, and skin and hair color assessments.
The results: sun damage severity revealed in the UV photographs was found to line up very closely with factors that have long been linked to a higher melanoma risk.
In other words, boys and girls who had light-colored skin, blue eyes, red hair, and/or freckles did indeed show more skin damage on the UV photographs than those who did not.
This, the researchers said, means that UV photography does not lie: the more damage the technology highlights, the greater the cancer risk.
"We hope that our research will help make the use of these photographs more mainstream, whether in a clinic setting or as a public health intervention," said Gamble. "With greater awareness of melanoma and increased use of sun prevention and early detection strategies, much of the occurrence of the disease and its complications can be prevented."<
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