Sun-safety apps improve sun protection practices, study finds

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Sun-safety apps improve sun protection practices, study finds

Related tags Sun protection Ultraviolet

Smart phone sun-safety apps can help to enhance the sun protection practices of users, according to data analyzed as part of research into how effective it really is.

The research, which took into account two separate studies and one editorial report focusing on how individuals used sun-safety apps, underlined how real-time sun protection advice improved the sun protection behavior, according to a report published in the peer reviewed journal JAMA Dermatology.

Increasingly consumers are turning to apps for information on health and well-being, which has led to mushrooming of apps designed to enhance individuals cosmetic and personal care routines, many of with apps such UV Index and Sun UV Protector targeting sun care users.

Study author also an app developer

The primary author of the research, David B. Buller, PhD, of Klein Buendel, was also author behind one of the studies on phone sun care apps, which was conducted in 2012.

The study concerned an app developed by Klein Buendal, The Solar Cell APP, that enrolled 604 participants to assess their behavior towards the app.

The study found that of the 305 that were earmarked to use the app, 232 actually downloaded it and only 125 individuals (41%) used it.

Results showed that more users spent longer in the shade, 41% of total sun exposure time, compared to 33% in those that had not used the app, but likewise, the app users also used less sunscreen, applying it for 28% of sun exposure days, compared to 34%.

"The Solar Cell mobile app seemed to promote sun protection practices, especially when it was used. Specifically, it increased use of shade. Shade can substantially reduce exposure to solar UV radiation (UV-R), but it needs to be available for it to be used," the authors conclude.

Second study showed different habits

A second trial followed on from the first trial, and was said to show improved sun safety awareness and practices in individuals using the app, compared to the first study.

This time a survey group of 202 adults was selected, of which 96 were assigned to use the app. Of those 96 individuals Buendel reported that 74 individuals (77%) actually used the app.

The study results showed that there was a higher incidence of the app using wearing wide-brimmed hats to protect them from the sun (24% vs 17%), while this time there was also a higher incidence of sunscreen use (46% vs 43%), although males and older uses reported a lower frequency of sunscreen and hat use.

"Strategies to increase the use of the mobile application are needed if the application is to be deployed effectively to the general population,"​ the study concludes.

Editorial points out sun care app pitfalls

A related editorial, authored by A. Shadi Kourosh, M.D., and Joseph C. Kvedar, M.D., of the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, states: 

"The studies by Buller et al in this issue of JAMA Dermatology, in which smartphone apps were used to provide patients with personalized sun protection education, offer interesting examples of the creativity and educational tools that can be applied to health care delivery in this era of increasing penetration of mobile technology.

“They also illustrate important lessons for those developing and testing health interventions that are patient and/or consumer focused in terms of the pitfalls reported by the authors."

The analysis of the previous studies and editorial, and the resulting journal entry in JAMA Dermatology, January 28, 2015, can be accessed here:

Related topics Formulation & Science

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