Warm weather and sunny days may make people think about skin cancer: A new study finds that people do more Google searches for the terms "skin cancer" and "melanoma" during the sun-soaked summer months than they do in other seasons.
The finding suggests that people have an increased interest in, or awareness of, melanoma during the summertime, making this season "the most efficient time for educational and public health initiatives" about skin cancer, the researchers wrote in their study.
For the study, the researchers looked at Google search trends from 2010 to 2014, and analyzed the number of searches for "melanoma" and "skin cancer." They also looked at data on newly diagnosed cases of melanoma in the United States, as well as deaths from the disease, to see whether these correlated with the Web search trends. [10 Do's and Don'ts to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer]
They found that every summer during the study period, searches for the terms increased, the researchers wrote in the study, published online today (June 10) in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
The researchers also found that the number of searches and melanoma deaths were correlated. This may be because people who have advanced melanoma, or those who know someone who does, are doing more searching for these terms, the researchers said. (The researchers noted that they did not analyze data from Alaska, the District of Columbia, Nevada or Vermont because the data were not available.)
They did not find a connection between Google searches and newly diagnosed cases of melanoma nationwide or at the state level. But certain states did have higher volumes of searches: Nevada and Tennessee had the most "skin cancer" inquiries, and Pennsylvania and Tennessee had the most "melanoma" searches, the researchers found.
However, the study had some limitations. As of March 2014, an estimated 87 percent of the U.S. population had access to the Internet, according to the study, meaning that not everyone could search for these terms online. Moreover, Google search represents just 64.5 percent of all U.S. desktop search-engine inquiries, and searches from other search websites were not included in the study, the researchers said.