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Sunscreen ads not targeting high-risk groups

Written by: Staff
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NEW YORK, May 17 (Reuters) Magazines aimed at men and parents and families, as well as to fans of travel and outdoor recreation, rarely contain ads for sun protection products, a new study shows.

Researchers note that middle-aged and older men are the group least likely to use sunscreen, while they are at the greatest risk of dying from melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Alan C. Geller of Boston University School of Medicine and colleagues reviewed six years' worth of issues of 24 popular magazines for groups at high risk of skin cancer, including men, women, teens, parents, travelers and people who enjoy outdoor pastimes such as tennis, running, golf and bicycling.

Of the 783 sun-care product ads they identified, 77 per cent appeared in women's magazines, Geller and his team report in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

While women's magazines contained, on average, four sun protection product ads per issue, parenting and family magazines contained less than one such ad per issue, and outdoor recreation magazines carried sun protection product ads only once every six issues.

Over the survey period, from 1997 to 2002, the researchers saw a drop in the number of ads for suntan lotions containing minimal SPF and an increase in ads mentioning that their product contained an SPF above 15.

While ads touched on recommendations from the International Agency for Research on Cancer for sun protection -- for example, 82 per cent stated that their product had an SPF above 15 and 18 per cent said it protected against both UVA and UVB rays -- none of the ads listed approved recommendations for the products' use, which include applying them before sun exposure and reapplying after swimming or exercising vigorously.

If current magazine advertising trends continue, ''most high-risk consumers will have little access to advertising that is often required to alert, prompt and remind consumers to use sunscreen,'' Geller and his colleagues assert.

They conclude by urging that ads for sun protection products include information on how to use them effectively.

Reuters SRS VP1020

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