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UV-detection wearables to prevent dangerous sunburn

A Queensland University of Technology public health researcher is testing new ultraviolet (UV) detection wearables in order to make sun safety a part of the daily routine in Australia, according to a recent report.

Young people nowadays can include getting sunburnt in their growing list of rebellious rites of passage.

Refusing to wear a protective swimwear or to put on a hat, after years of doing so as kids, can be equated to risky behaviours such as drinking alcohol or speeding.

The researcher from the University’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation explained that this tendency of the young to get sunburnt may be the reason why 30% of the study participants reported deliberate sun-tanning during the course of the study.

The sunburn rates were also high. 58% out of the 107 total participants reported one or more cases of sunburn in their daily sun exposure diaries.

The participants were divided into groups during the study. One group wore a brooch-like UV monitor that is personalised to their skin type.

The wearable gave an alert whenever their skin had reached its UV threshold for the day.

A second group used a free phone app that displayed the daily UV index, daily time periods when sun protection was most needed, and recommendations for sun protection measures.

Comparing the results, the group who wore the UV monitors improved their sun protection on weekends during the four-week intervention by an average of 58 minutes each day.

Those who have improved showed a 59% reduction from baseline exposure.

It was great to learn that the group who wore UV monitors had reduced their weekend unprotected sun exposure by an average of 61 minutes a day after three months.

It demonstrates, for many in this group, that a sustained improvement in weekend exposure had been formed from the constant alerts by the device.

The group who used the free app also reported a continued reduction of their weekend sun exposure three months after the study, as compared to how they were at the beginning.

However, its reduction is not as great as that of the group that used the wearables.

There were still a number of participants in both groups, unfortunately, who did not make any changes to their unprotected sun exposure, thereby increasing their risk of skin cancer.

The results of the study effectively showed promise that personalised wearable devices, which are set to how sensitive the user’s skin is to the sun, work in prompting sun protection.

Feedback from the young participants, however, included comments saying that they will not wear a brooch-like device.

With these comments in mind, the team is now testing a new set of high-tech and good-looking UV-detecting wearables before trialling them in a follow-up study.

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