Smartphone Mobile Application Delivering Personalized, Real-Time Sun Protection Advice: A Randomized Clinical Trial | Cancer Screening, Prevention, Control | JAMA Dermatology | JAMA Network
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Original Investigation
May 2015

Smartphone Mobile Application Delivering Personalized, Real-Time Sun Protection Advice: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Author Affiliations
  • 1Klein Buendel Inc, Golden, Colorado
  • 2Department of Internal Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
  • 3Department of Dermatology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
  • 4Global Monitoring Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • 5Colorado Foundation for Public Health and Environment, Denver
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(5):497-504. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.3889

Importance  Mobile smartphones are rapidly emerging as an effective means of communicating with many Americans. Using mobile applications (apps), they can access remote databases, track time and location, and integrate user input to provide tailored health information.

Objective  A smartphone mobile app providing personalized, real-time sun protection advice was evaluated in a randomized clinical trial.

Design, Setting, and Participants  The trial was conducted in 2012 and had a randomized pretest-posttest controlled design with a 10-week follow-up. Data were collected from a nationwide population-based survey panel. A sample of 604 non-Hispanic and Hispanic adults from the Knowledge Panel 18 years or older who owned an Android smartphone were enrolled.

Interventions  The mobile app provided advice on sun protection (ie, protection practices and risk of sunburn) and alerts (to apply or reapply sunscreen and get out of the sun), hourly UV Index, and vitamin D production based on the forecast UV Index, the phone’s time and location, and user input.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Percentage of days using sun protection and time spent outdoors (days and minutes) in the midday sun and number of sunburns in the past 3 months were collected.

Results  Individuals in the treatment group reported more shade use (mean days staying in the shade, 41.0% vs 33.7%; P = .03) but less sunscreen use (mean days, 28.6% vs 34.5%; P = .048) than controls. There was no significant difference in number of sunburns in the past 3 months (mean, 0.60 in the treatment group vs 0.62 for controls; P = .87). Those who used the mobile app reported spending less time in the sun (mean days keeping time in the sun to a minimum, 60.4% for app users vs 49.3% for nonusers; P = .04) and using all protection behaviors combined more (mean days, 39.4% vs 33.8%; P = .04).

Conclusions and Relevance  The mobile app improved some sun protection. Use of the mobile app was lower than expected but associated with increased sun protection. Providing personalized advice when and where people are in the sun may help reduce sun exposure.