BYU lab studies skin damage through ultraviolet photography


Get your sunscreen out because this month is National Healthy Skin Month and the BYU BioComms Lab is telling students how to keep their skin healthy during the dry, winter months.

The BioComms Lab may not seem like a very sunny place, but you definitely want to put on your sunscreen because of the work they do with skin cancer.

BYU professor Kevin John recently teamed up with the University of Utah and the Huntsman Cancer Institute to study skin damage using ultraviolet photography. Research participants are normally surprised that cancer research is done in a state that doesn’t have a beach.

“And then when I tell them that Utah, just two years ago, was number one in the nation for melanoma, they’re like, ‘whoa!’ It’s a big surprise to them and they don’t realize that we’re actually, as a country, in the middle of a melanoma epidemic,” John said.

According to his research, 100 years ago the chance of getting melanoma was 1 in 15,000. Today the rate has increased to 1 in 50.

“I have also worked with people who have got chunks of their skin cut out because they went hiking or they bike and do all these fun activities and sunscreen just doesn’t feel comfortable so they don’t put it on,” former BioComms manager Camilla Owens said.

John wants to develop the most effective way to communicate to Utahns the importance of wearing sunscreen.

“Just seeing that image of the skin damage, actually increased fear of sun damage which led people to be more likely to use sunscreen,” John said.

UV light photography showed that not only does sunscreen protect from skin damage, it also keeps skin from aging quickly.

“You can take care of your skin and just wear like an SPF 35 for example. But being able to see the increase in power in terms of SPF 50 or even 100 and see how that serves as a protective shield,” Owens said

For John, this research is more than skin deep.

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