Text Messages Might Increase Sunscreen Usage

With daily reminders, people may be more apt to protect their skin

FRIDAY, Nov. 20, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Sunscreen can help reduce the risk of skin cancer, but people forget to apply it. Now, researchers say, daily text-message reminders could increase usage.

Researchers from the University of California-Davis Health System, in Sacramento, recruited 70 adults and randomly assigned half of them to get text messages that included information about local weather and a reminder to wear sunscreen. The others didn't receive the messages.

The researchers used electronic monitoring to track who used sunscreen; the tubes of sunscreen had been equipped with devices that sent messages when they were opened.

During the next six weeks, people who didn't receive text messages used sunscreen 30 percent of the days, compared with 56 percent for the group that received the messages.

More than two-thirds of those who got the messages said they'd continue to use text-message reminders.

"Despite continuing educational efforts, a wide gap persists between patients' understanding of the harmful effects of excessive sun exposure and their regular application of sunscreens," the study authors wrote. "The short-term results of our study suggest that cellular telephone text-message reminders are a low-cost, scalable and effective method of bridging this knowledge-action gap."

"Introduction of a program that incorporates text-message reminders to a large population may be an innovative preventive health measure against the development of skin cancer," they wrote.

The study findings are in the November issue of Archives of Dermatology.

More information:

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on skin cancer.

SOURCE: Archives of Dermatology, news release, Nov. 12, 2009
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