A picture is worth 1,000 health warnings — at least when it comes to skin cancer. That's the key conclusion of new research that found people shown pictures of skin cancer were far more likely to regularly check their own skin for signs of melanoma.
The research, conducted by experts from the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, found that visual images of skin cancer may be the most effective way to prompt skin self-examinations for irregular moles or other potential signs of cancer.
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"Visual images capture our attention and are persuasive. They also help us to learn and remember," said Laurie Hoffman-Goetz, who helped conduct the study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. "The systematic review found that exposure to images of skin cancer motivated people to check their skin more frequently and accurately. The study found that providing text descriptions alone were not effective in aiding skin self-examination."
Co-researcher Jennifer McWhirter said the findings could help inform patient education strategies and public health communication efforts.
"Skin self-examination plays an important role in detecting melanoma early. Many cases of melanoma are first detected by patients themselves," said McWhirter.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in North America.
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