Queensland has the highest rate of melanoma in the world, but a clever new SMS initiative might help turn that around, writes Katie Clift of Cancer Council Queensland.

“Hi Katie – it’s the weekend! The air might be cooler, but you still need to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide when the UV Index level is 3+ to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Stay SunSmart this weekend!”

That, my friends, is what we call a HealthyText – and it’s been trialled on more than 500 Queenslanders in an Australian-first study by QUT and Cancer Council Queensland.

The aim of the HealthyTexts – which are personalised down to name, gender, sunburn history, skin cancer risk factors and skin check habits – was to help Queenslanders improve their overall sun protection and skin check behaviours – and it worked.

HealthyTexts reminding Queenslanders to check their skin regularly proved most effective among people under 32 years of age and those with fair or very fair skin.

Likewise, HealthyTexts reminding Queenslanders to be SunSmart were most effective in those with fair or very fair skin, and men involved in the trial.

HealthyTexts are a new and emerging technology that have the potential to change the game for SunSmart campaigning – enhancing the effectiveness of social marketing strategies targeted at young people and technology lovers of all ages.

Sunburn rates are highest in young Queenslanders, with at least half of those aged 5-17 experiencing sunburn every year, increasing risks of future skin cancer.

I don’t know about you, but if it saves my life I’m okay with the idea of getting a reminder to pack my broad-brimmed hat, reapply my sunscreen, and self-examine my skin.

In fact, some of the HealthyTexts study participants said they wanted more frequent reminders to be smart in the sun.

The research will be used to inform future SunSmart studies and strategies to help curb our State’s incidence of skin cancer – we have the highest rates in the world, with more than 136,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

As we head into cooler months, remember to be SunSmart when you’re outdoors, and check the UV Index. Even on a cloudy day the index can peak, and you still risk doing damage to your skin if you go unprotected.

And check your skin regularly. See your GP straight away if you notice any changes, including new spots or lesions, and changes in the shape, colour, thickness, or elevation of moles or freckles.

If you’d like to sign-up for future HealthyText trials, just email healthy.texts@qut.edu.au.

Be SunSmart, spread the word, and share the sunscreen! #nomoresunburn!