Facebook
Facebook

Record high Google searches for skin cancer prevention boosted by viral selfie

The impacts of the viral post have been revealed in a new study

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 12 December 2017 10:29
Comments

A viral selfie documenting one woman’s skin cancer treatment prompted record high Google searches for prevention of the condition, a new study has found.

Tawny Willoughby was 27-years-old when she posted the graphic snap to Facebook, which showed her scarred and scab-laden face alongside the caption “this is what skin-cancer treatment can look like”.

The 2015 post, which has since been shared more than 105,000 times, triggered a wave of media coverage akin to the attention that is typically garnered by celebrity health stories.

“If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go,” Willoughby’s compelling post began.

Willoughby – who now goes by the surname Dzierzek – frequently used tanning beds as a teenager and was diagnosed with skin cancer when she was 21-years-old.

She explained that as a high school student in Kentucky she would sometimes tan up to four times a week which she has since acknowledged as excessive.

At the time of posting, she had basal cell carcinoma five times and visited the dermatologist biannually.

She added that she did not have melanoma, which can be deadly, and was keen to explain that skin cancer does not necessarily manifest itself in moles but can leave sufferers with disfiguring facial scars.

According to the study, which was published in the journal Preventive Medicine on Monday, Willoughby’s post generated a 162 per cent boost in Google searches of the terms “skin” and “cancer”.

At the peak of her story's news coverage, there were record levels of searches for “skin cancer”, with 229,000 searches for the term in just one week, the study found.

“We conclude that an ordinary person's social media post caught the public's imagination and led to significant increases in public engagement with skin cancer prevention,” the study states.

Co-author John Ayers, public health researcher at San Diego State University, hopes that the study will encourage public health experts to engage more in social media, reports Live Science.

Posts like Willoughby’s can help raise awareness of underreported conditions which could ultimately help prevent illnesses and save lives, the study concluded.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in