Skin cancer project to send text messages that remind people to wear sunscreen
A text message reminding you to put on sunscreen could be the key to reducing skin cancer if researchers get their way.
The Sun Text Project, conducted by the University of Queensland, will involve participants being sent multiple messages suggesting they apply sunscreen and how to stay safe outdoors.
Sun safety experts recently announced that people should apply sunscreen every day as part of a morning routine and should be as commonplace as brushing your teeth.
UQ professor Monika Janda said the SMS project was about targeting the younger generation through technology.
“We are doing a good job so far as we have seen a decrease in the incidence of skin cancer in young people in Australia,” she told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Craig Zonca and Loretta Ryan.
“But we must keep pushing though, and this study hopes to do that.
“We know that melanoma is the most serious cancer caused by the sun and it’s the most common cancer in that younger age group.”
She said the project also wanted to reduce the amount of sun damage done to people in their younger years which they may not see until later in life.
Every year in Australia
- Skin cancers account for around 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers
- The majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun
- GPs have more than one million patient consultations for skin cancer
- The incidence of skin cancer is one of the highest in the world; two to three times the rates in the US, UK and Canada
Source: Cancer Council Australia
How the project works
More than 500 participants aged 18 to 40 are needed for the five-month trial.
Professor Janda said text messages would be sent at regular intervals and would include facts, pop quizzes and ways for people to interact.
“We know that everyone is on their phone all the time and people pay attention to the little ping sound,” she said.
“Some of the people in the study group will get the texts three times a week, while other people will get them every day.
“We will ask people how often is too often for a text and we also want to discover how long it takes participants to create a healthy habit.”
Another aspect of the messaging system will focus on dispelling myths people have about sunscreen.
“For example, many people are worried about nanoparticles or think that you don’t need to wear sunscreen when it’s cloudy.”
Some people say they avoid using sunscreen because they don’t like how it feels. (ABC News: Catherine Heuzenroeder)
Why are people not wearing sunscreen?
In previous studies, Professor Janda said the biggest reason people gave for not wearing sunscreen was that they didn’t like how it felt.
“We need to try getting people to try different sunscreens as there are so many out there now and some are really nice and feel like a moisturiser,” she said.
“There are also many other ways to keep off the sun, for example using an umbrella or wearing the right clothing.”
She said the project’s text messages would never advocate for a particular sunscreen but would offer different solutions and get people to try different things.
“Plus it should be fun; it’s not going to be dry do-this-or-do-that nagging.”
Anyone interested in taking part should register at the Sun Text Project website.