A recent study of children in middle schools using UV photographic technology has shown how much sun damage can be inflicted early in life.
At the University of Colorado, a team of researchers have implemented this expensive and generally untested technology to bring home the message of UV skin damage to middle schoolers.
Reporting in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, their studies concluded that certain physical characteristics, including pale skin and red hair, related to severe skin markings (and the possibility of melanoma cancer) found in ultra-violet photography.
The team took photos of almost 600 children, who were 12 years old. They found that these characteristics and a lack of sun protection related to high levels of susceptibility to the cancer -- and the most damaging photos.
Light which is visible to human eyes ranges from 400 to 750 nanometers; the spectrum applied to normal photography. However, the specialist flash used in UV photography falls in to the 1 - 400 nanometer range.
By using a camera flash which mimics UV lighting, the technology allows every nasty detail to come to light. According to the team leader Robert Dellavalle, the camera flash is the equivalent of being rapidly exposed to one second of sunlight.
"Some of the kids are really freaked out and don't want to look at the images at all, so I tell them to look at their inner zombie," Dellavalle says. "This is like seeing your lung black, and appearances have a big impact at this time of life."
Unfortunately, such technology comes with a price. The system the researchers used, Canfield's Visia Complexion Analysis, can cost up to $20,000 to purchase -- not a viable option for educational establishments.
If innovation and technological development are meant to offer knowledge and improve lives, then being able to give the next generation a visual representation of what UV light is doing to them personally would no doubt form an impression on them -- and potentially influence their use of sun block and tanning stores before habit sets in.
Perhaps in the future a company will utilize this technology in a manner that schools could 'rent' their services to help children make better lifestyle choices.
Image credit: Jon Smith