When Tawny Dzierzek posted a selfie to Facebook in spring 2015, she probably didn’t intend to engage the internet in a mass lesson about sun safety. But two years after a photo Dzierzek shared went viral, a new study suggests it spurred people to educate themselves about skin cancer.
“Don’t let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up,” she added. “That’s my biggest fear now that I have a two year old boy of my own.”
At the time, the post sparked conversation—and since then, it’s had been shared over 100,000 times and generated 17,000 comments. Not bad, right? Well, turns out those shares may have had a huge impact: According to a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Google searches for “skin” and “cancer” spiked in the aftermath of the post: Search queries were up 162 percent on May 13, 2015, 155 percent on May 14, and sustained momentum through May 17, the period when Dzierzek’s selfies garnered media attention. All told, searches for skin-cancer prevention were 232 percent higher than usual, while searches for skin cancer and tanning came in 489 percent higher.