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Dermatology Online Journal

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YouTube as a source of health information: Analysis of sun protection and skin cancer prevention related issues


Although social media ubiquitously supplementstraditional information sources such as newspapers,magazines, radio, and television, investigation of onlinehealth information related to sun protection and skincancer prevention has been scarce and largely limitedto English language sources. Using the search terms“sun protection,” “sunscreen,” “skin cancer prevention,”“tanning bed” and “vitamin D,” we investigated 281YouTube videos presented in 6 languages: English,German, French, Spanish, Swedish, and Danish. Foreach video, we used a four-sectioned checklist toassess general information, popularity, expert drivenmeasures, and heuristic driven measures. Differencesbetween languages were detected: English languagevideos were most frequently viewed (median numberof views: 5488 compared to 248 -1591 in otherlanguages). Approximately 60% of videos revealednegative effects of solar ultraviolet (UV)-exposure.The majority of videos (75%) targeted adults. Videoson tanning beds and sunscreen contained false ormisleading information 40% and 20% of the time,respectively. We confirm observations made withrespect to other medical disciplines that the generalquality of YouTube contributions is often inferiorand does not deliver sustainable information. Othersources of information should be included whensearching for health information online.

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