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UV Photos Show the Areas We Miss When Applying Sunscreen

Sunscreen only works if you're actually wearing it. And it's too easy to go through the motions of putting on sunscreen while still leaving large amounts of skin unprotected. Even if you're applying the recommended shot glass of sunscreen before you head out into the world, parts of your skin may still be exposed to harmful rays. Just check out these UV images taken by researchers at the University of Liverpool, spotted by the UK's Metro.

The black-and-white images were taken with a UV camera so that any part of the skin covered by UV-blocking sunscreen would appear dark. Skin without sunscreen on it, by contrast, remains visible. The 57 volunteers in the study—which was recently presented at the British Association of Dermatologists' Annual Conference—were instructed to apply sunscreen to their face as usual.

A black-and-white UV photo of a woman’s blotchy sunscreen application

Some volunteers were more thorough than others, but as a whole, the group ended up missing a median of 9.5 percent of their faces. Men with beards tended to miss a lot of their faces, you might notice in the photos, and people seemed to have trouble with covering the full area around their mouth. However, the main problems occurred around the eyes. Many people missed their eyelids, and more than three-quarters of the group missed the medial canthal region, or the area between the bridge of the nose and the inner corner of the eye.

A UV photo of a man shows white patches of bare skin underneath dark-looking sunscreen.

The finding is significant because the area around the eyes are particularly susceptible to skin cancer. According to the abstract presented at the conference, 5 to 10 percent of skin cancers occur on the eyelids.

Knowing this doesn't necessarily help, though. When the participants were brought back for a second visit, the researchers gave them new instructions that included data on cancer risks for eyelids, the results barely changed. People put slightly more sunscreen on around their eyelids (they missed a median 7.7 percent instead of 13.5 percent of the area) but almost everyone still missed their medial canthal area.

A woman turns her face to show sunscreen coverage in a UV image.

It's not a surprising finding, considering the fact that no one wants to get sunscreen in their eyes. Sunscreen manufacturers recommend that you keep it out of your eyes, and if it does run, you'll end up in tears. So it's not particularly useful to tell people they should be coating their eyelids in Coppertone.

To keep your face super smooth and reduce your likelihood of sun damage, then, the message is clear. Better get some shades, unless you've got a UV-blocking eyeshadow on hand. Better yet, get yourself a hat, too.

[h/t Metro]

All images by Kareem Hassanin, courtesy Kevin Hamill

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science
New Patient Test Could Suggest Whether Therapy or Meds Will Work Better for Anxiety
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Like many psychological disorders, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients with anxiety. Some might benefit from taking antidepressants, which boost mood-affecting brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Others might respond better to therapy, and particularly a form called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Figuring out which form of treatment works best often requires months of trial and error. But experts may have developed a quick clinical test to expedite this process, suggests a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have noted that patients with higher levels of anxiety exhibit more electrical activity in their brains when they make a mistake. They call this phenomenon error-related negativity, or ERN, and measure it using electroencephalography (EEG), a test that records the brain's electric signals.

“People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes,” the paper’s lead author, UIC psychiatrist Stephanie Gorka, said in a news release. “This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you've made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

Gorka and her colleagues wanted to know whether individual differences in ERN could predict treatment outcomes, so they recruited 60 adult volunteers with various types of anxiety disorders. Also involved was a control group of 26 participants with no history of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists gauged subjects’ baseline ERN levels by having them wear an EEG cap while performing tricky computer tasks. Ultimately, they all made mistakes thanks to the game's challenging nature. Then, randomized subjects with anxiety disorders were instructed to take an SSRI antidepressant every day for three months, or receive weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for the same duration. (Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of evidence-based talk therapy that forces patients to challenge maladaptive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to modify their emotions and behavior.)

After three months, the study's patients took the same computer test while wearing EEG caps. Researchers found that those who'd exhibited higher ERN levels at the study's beginning had reduced anxiety levels if they'd been treated with CBT compared to those treated with medication. This might be because the structured form of therapy is all about changing behavior: Those with enhanced ERN might be more receptive to CBT than other patients, as they're already preoccupied with the way they act.

EEG equipment sounds high-tech, but it's relatively cheap and easy to access. Thanks to its availability, UIC psychiatrists think their anxiety test could easily be used in doctors’ offices to measure ERN before determining a course of treatment.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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