A photograph is truly worth a thousand words especially when it is a UV reflectance photo!
OMG, that’s frightening! Our motto is to prevent skin cancer one child at a time and not to make the sun the enemy. However, UV reflectance photography provides a powerful personal snapshot of pigment change related to sun exposure. Because the camera system shows melanin deposits not visible to the naked eye it raises awareness about sun damage and the importance of sun protection.
For over a decade, we have used UV reflectance photography in our SunAWARE Program to educate children about skin cancer prevention. Children can clearly visualize their own skin and determine if they have sun damage. We remind children that they are not born with freckles but rather a genetic predisposition to develop freckling. We stress that melanin deposits develop at sites of excess sun exposure. Younger children are taught that they need to give extra special attention to all areas where they have freckles. With older children, we educate them that freckles are a sign of sun damage and imparts an increased risk for skin cancer. We use this technology to drive home the importance of sun protection. Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and shade protect the skin and prevent further damage.
Our very affordable and effective camera systems includes a newer model DSLR reflex camera adapted for UV reflectance photography by Life Pixel. We use the video mode for the demonstration and mount an 8-inch monitor on the hot shoe for enhanced viewing. Outdoors direct sunlight provides enough UV for imaging. For indoor programs, we use black lights for our UV light source. They are available online or at party stores. The black lights work by eliminating visible light while transmitting UV light. We position the black lights on either side of the subject.
Another benefit to UV reflectance photography is that it allows us to demonstrate proper sunscreen application. Chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays they appear black on the skin. We provide the child with sunscreen and ask them to apply it and then evaluate their application. We then ask them to look in the camera to see if they have missed any spots. Areas along the hairline, around the eyes, or rims of ears are common spots that people miss when applying sunscreen. We also demonstrate that sunscreens with physical blockers, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide makes their skin look lighter because they work by reflecting UV radiation away from the skin.
With skin cancer increasing faster than any other cancer in the U.S. and one person dying every hour from the disease, our hope is that we can provide children and the people who care for them with a simple lesson about personal risk and proper sun protection.