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Research Letter |

Online Advertising for Cancer Prevention: Google Ads and Tanning Beds

Wilmarie Cidre Serrano, BA1; Mary-Margaret Chren, MD2; Jack S. Resneck Jr, MD2,3; Nepheli N. Aji4; Sherry Pagoto, PhD5; Eleni Linos, MD, DrPH2
[+] Author Affiliations
1Medical student, Harvard Medical School, Boston Massachusetts
2Department of Dermatology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
3Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
4undergraduate student, College of Biological Sciences, University of California, Davis
5Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Massachusetts, Boston
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(1):101-102. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.3998.
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This Viewpoint discusses Google’s unique opportunity to transmit targeted public health information to a large audience through advertisements that appear alongside search results.

Google receives more than 3.5 billion Internet searches daily,1 and the advertisements on their results pages may provide a unique opportunity to transmit targeted public health information to a large audience. Skin cancer is more common than all other cancers combined,2 and indoor tanning is a preventable risk factor that accounts for more than 450 000 new malignant neoplasms each year.3 Tanning bed use remains common, with 1 in 5 adolescents and more than half of college students exposed.3 Awareness of the dangers of tanning beds is one of the factors that can lead to behavior change. The goals of this study were to examine the volume of tanning bed–related searches on Google and pilot the use of Google’s advertising service for dissemination of skin cancer prevention messages to users entering searches related to tanning beds.

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Figure.
Trends in Google Search Terms Over Time

The graph shows monthly relative search popularity worldwide from January 2004 to June 2015. Google has normalized data by the total number of searches for each region; 100 represents peak interest.6 The figure key provides the 2014 average monthly search volume for each term.5

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