Text messages effective at boosting skin cancer prevention

Personalised text messages are an effective way to warn people about the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of sun protection, a joint study by the University of Queensland and Cancer Council Queensland reveals.

The study took place over a period of 12 months and included more than 500 participants aged between 18 and 42. For the first 12 weeks of the trial, participants received weekly text messages. The messages then reduced in frequency to just one a month for the next nine months, reports news-medical.net.

Participants were reminded to wear sunscreen, dress appropriately and limit the amount of time they spent in the sun between 10am and 4pm. The messages also asked whether their partner, or anyone else other than a doctor, had recently checked their skin for signs of cancer.

At the end of the 12 months, the researchers found that the percentage of people checking their skin for signs of cancer had increased significantly, from 37 per cent to 63 per cent, reports deccanchronicle.com.

Lead investigator associate professor Monika Janda said SMS is a great way to promote personal responsibility and positive reinforcement.

“Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer incidence in the world and melanoma is the most common cancer in those aged 15-44,” she noted. “SMS messages are an acceptable and feasible way to reach people, particularly those under 45, with personalised skin cancer prevention texts which take into account a person’s age, skin type, gender and risk factors.”

Skin cancer is a problem all over the world – according to statistics from Cancer Research UK, 37 people a day were diagnosed with the most serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, in 2011.