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Skin Cancer Awareness Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic: Focus on Internet Searches

By: Jenna Carter, PhD
Posted: Monday, August 2, 2021

A letter to the editor published in the International Journal of Dermatology highlighted the decline in public awareness of skin cancer during the coronavirus pandemic. Ida M. Heerfordt, MD, PhD, of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, examined Internet searches for terms related to skin cancer between March 2019 and December 2020. Overall findings revealed significant reductions in Internet searches for such terms, suggesting a decrease in public awareness.

“Internet traffic can be a proxy for public awareness. Worldwide, people search for health-related information online, which makes Web search queries on Google Trends a valuable data source on health tendencies,” stated Dr. Heerfordt.

For this study, Google Trends were examined, and worldwide searches for the following terms were quantified: skin cancer, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. The highest interest on a particular search was quantified on a scale of 100 relative search volume to 0 relative search volume (suggesting no interest). The gathered data were split into early and late periods, with the early period from March to July and the late period from August to December. Data from each period in 2020 were statistically compared with search queries from the corresponding dates in 2019.

Overall findings revealed that awareness of skin cancer, melanoma, and squamous cell carcinoma was significantly reduced (P < .001) during the early part of the pandemic, compared with 2019. In the latter part of the pandemic, there were smaller reductions in public awareness for skin cancer, melanoma, and basal cell carcinoma (P ≤ .002). However, there was no significant difference in searches for squamous cell carcinoma in the latter period of the pandemic (P = .092).

Disclosure: The author reported no conflicts of interest.

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