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Text message reminders have little impact on sun protection habits

Excessive exposure to UV radiation increases the risk of skin cancer which explains the importance attached to public health sun protection messages.

In a digital era in which millions of individuals possess a smartphone, could short message service (SMS) texting, which can reach a large audience and is relatively low-cost, provide an effective means for disseminating these messages?

Although a few clinical trials have explored the value of this method, its overall effectiveness has not been evaluated and so for this new study, a team from Peru conducted a systematic review of all available trials.

A total of five randomised trials were identified although a major problem was that the trials assessed different outcomes. Two trials examined “having a sunburn anytime during the follow-up” and this was taken as the primary outcome in the analysis.

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The results showed that SMS messaging had no effect on the primary outcome and contradictory findings were obtained for sunscreen use and sun protection habits. In fact, two studies which personalised the SMS based on the health belief model, which effectively targets participant’s perception of the message, had little impact.

The authors noted that while their analysis showed no impact of SMS texting, the variable nature of the included studies precluded any meaningful assessment of the value of the intervention.

Chambergo-Michilot D et al. Text message reminders for improving sun protection habits: a systematic review 2020 PloS ONE 2020;15(5):e0233220.