Using cell phone text messages to remind people to use sunscreen

Originally published in Insidermedicine

Daily text messages sent to individuals’ cells phones can help remind them to use sunscreen, according to research published in the latest issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

Here is some information from the American Academy of Dermatology on sun exposure, sunscreen use, and vitamin D synthesis:

• Unprotected ultraviolet (UV) exposure to the sun or indoor tanning devices is a known risk factor for the development of skin cancer

• There is no scientifically validated, safe threshold level of UV exposure from the sun that allows for maximal vitamin D synthesis without increasing skin cancer risk

• To protect against skin cancer, a comprehensive photoprotective regimen, including the regular use and proper use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen, is recommended

Researchers out of the University of California–Davis Health System in Sacramento randomized 70 volunteers aged 18 and older to receive text messages reminding them to apply sunscreen daily or receive no such messages. The text messages were sent to participants cellular phones and included information on the daily forecast as well as reminders to apply sunscreen. Adherence to sunscreen use was measured via electronic monitors adapted to participants’ sunscreen tubes that relayed an electronic message every time the cap was removed.

At the end of the six week trial, mean daily adherence to sunscreen application was 56.1% in the treatment group, compared with only 30.0% in the control group. Also, 69% of those who received text message reminders reported that they would continue to use them, and 31% said they would recommend them to others.

Today’s research highlights how poor adherence is to sunscreen use even among those who know they are being monitored. It also demonstrates, however, that simple electronic tools, such as reminder systems, can help improve adherence.

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