Researchers have discovered a new weapon in the fight against skin cancer, in an Australian-first multifaceted trial using text messaging to promote sun protection and skin checks.
More than 500 Queenslanders were recruited for the HealthyText trial, which improved overall sun protection behaviours and skin checks over 12 months.
Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said new and emerging technologies could help compliment the delivery of SunSmart messages in Queensland.
“The trial found greatest receptiveness to skin self-examination messages for those under 32 years of age; those with very fair or fair skin; and those who said they planned to check their skin at the start of the study,” Ms Clift said.
“Likewise, the sun protection intervention was more effective among those with very fair or fair skin, men, and those who made plans at the start of the study to consciously reduce their risk of skin cancer.”
Lead investigator Associate Professor Monika Janda from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation said the study concluded that SMS-delivered intervention was effective, far-reaching, flexible and individualised.
“Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer incidence in the world and melanoma is the most common cancer in those aged 15-44,” Associate Professor Janda said.
“Personalised SMS messages are an acceptable and feasible way to reach people, particularly those under 45.”
Participants in the study were sent weekly messages for the first 12 weeks, then monthly texts, with a total of 21 messages sent over 12 months.
“The texts were personalised with each participant’s name and gender, skin cancer risk factors, sunburn history, and information about their previous skin check habits,” Ms Clift said.
“One of the most interesting findings was that some participants wanted more frequent text messages.
“The finding will be used to inform the development of future phone-based SunSmart studies and strategies.
“While there were some improvements in sun protection behaviours in this trial, future studies incorporating multimedia messaging and visual or interactive elements may help to achieve even greater uptake of SunSmart behaviours,” she said.
More than 136,000 skin cancers are diagnosed in Queensland each year – including around 3,400 melanomas and 133,000 non-melanoma skin cancers.
Queenslanders should see their GP if they notice any skin changes, including new spots or lesions, and changes in the shape, colour, thickness, or elevation of moles or freckles.
And remember to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, and Slide.
The project was a joint initiative of Queensland University of Technology, Cancer Council Queensland and the University of Queensland.
The results of the Healthy Text trial have been published by international journal Preventative Medicine.
For more information or interviews, please contact:
Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland