November 18, 2009

Text Reminders About Sunscreen Seem To Work

People who received daily text message reminders to wear sunscreen were more likely to do so, according to new research.

Writing in the November issue of Archives of Dermatology, Dr April W. Armstrong, of the University of California-Davis Health System, Sacramento, and colleagues assessed effectiveness of receiving daily text-message reminders to wear sunscreen over a six-week period.

Researchers studied 70 participants, aged 18 or older. Each participant was asked to apply sunscreen daily.

Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive text message alerts reminding them to wear sunscreen daily.

Researchers said the text message consisted of two components: a text detailing daily local weather information and a text reminding users to apply sunscreen.

Researchers were able to monitor participants' adherence through electronic adherence monitors adapted to the sunscreen tubes that would send a message every time the cap was removed.

"At the end of the 42-day (six-week) study period, the control group had a mean [average] adherence of 12.6 days of sunscreen application, which corresponded to a 30-percent daily adherence rate. In comparison, the group that received daily reminder messages had a mean adherence of 23.6 days and a daily adherence rate of 56.1 percent," researchers wrote.

They found that 24 participants (69 percent) in the remainder group reported continuing use of sunscreen after the study and 31 (89 percent) said they would recommend the text reminder system to others.

"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 authors conclude.

"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."


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