Justin Bieber may have a tumultuous love life and a police record, but the pop star is also doing something right: He’s (inadvertently) helping to prevent skin cancer.
Bieber’s infamous banged coif from circa 2009 may influence kids to cover up when they're in the sun, according to an observational paper conducted by Bernard Cohen, MD, professor of dermatology and pediatrics, and Crystal Agi, MD, chief resident of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University. That’s because teens who sport prominent bangs have paler skin and almost no freckles on their foreheads, the latter of which is a marker of sun damage that’s linked to an increased risk of melanoma. Of course, the bangs don’t need to be side-swept, a la Bieber, as long as they adequately cover the forehead.
“It can be hard to talk to teens about the importance of sun protection because they often think of cancer as something that happens long down the road,” Cohen tells Yahoo Shine. “But I see 12-year-olds who develop age spots after one bad sunburn.”
Cohen and Agi initially dubbed their experiment “The Justin Bieber Effect.” However, after the pop star’s recent brushes with the law, they changed the name to “The Big Bang Theory: Adolescent Hairstyles and Sun Protection.” The researchers weren’t necessarily advocating for bangs per se; rather, they wanted to open a dialogue about how kids could make better health decisions. They met with a dozen kids on a weekly basis and their message resonated. “During the discussion, some of the teens agreed that maybe they should wear a hat or sunscreen more often,” says Cohen.
The results are hardly surprising, in light of recent research conducted by McMaster University in Canada that found that people are easily influenced by celebrities when making personal health decisions. For example, last fall after Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy after learning she carried a BRCA1 genetic mutation that boosted her odds of developing breast and ovarian cancers, there was a sharp uptick of women opting for preventative mastectomies, according to the National Society of Genetic Counselors. And the measles — an infection that the United States eradicated in 2000 — has returned, with some researchers pointing to the influence of Jenny McCarthy’s widespread anti-vaccination efforts as a possible cause.
McMaster researchers chalk up the phenomenon of celebrity influence to the “halo effect,” in which famous people are given a "cloak of generalized trustworthiness which extends well beyond their industry or expertise." And this can occur whether or not the celebrity meant to influence others. Let's hope it's not Bieber's last good deed!
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