Text Messaging Program Developed to Improve Skin Self-Examination, Sun Protective Behaviors

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A recent study sought to determine whether a text-messaging program that promotes sun protection and self-examination for skin health could affect preventive behaviors and early detection rates. The study included 546 individuals between the ages of 18 and 42.

The participants were randomly assigned via a computer-generated list to three groups: skin self-examination (176 individuals), sun protection (187 individuals), or attention control (183 individuals). The groups received text message updates based on the topics to which they were assigned, with each group getting 21 text messages over the course of 12 months. The messages were sent 12 times a week for the first 3 months and then once monthly for the remaining 9 months. Data were collected by telephone survey at the onset of the study, 3 months into the study, and at the end of the study (12 months).

The study was conducted between January 2012 and August 2013.  The researchers found that one year after the study began, the sun protection group and the skin self-examination group had an significant increase in improved protection habits compared with the control group (mean change 0.12; P=0.030 and mean change 0.12; P=0.035, respectively).

After a year, the skin self examination group reported a 63% increase in the proportion of participants who reported any skin self-examination (P<0.001) compared with the sun protection group and the attention control group.

The researchers found no significant change in intervention for participants' self-reported whole-body skin self-examination, sun tanning, or sunburn behaviors. Overall the researchers concluded that the text message program had a positive impact and was effective in improving individuals’ sun protective and skin self-examination behavior.

Interactive Phone Messages Could Increase Cancer Screening
Text messaging program that promotes skin health could affect preventive behaviors and early detection rates
The study aim to test the impact of a theory-based, SMS (text message)-delivered behavioural intervention (Healthy Text) targeting sun protection or skin self-examination behaviours compared to attention control. The Healthy Text intervention was effective in inducing significant improvements in sun protection and any type of skin self-examination behaviours.
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