Effect of a Skin Self-Monitoring Smart Phone Application on Time to Consultation With Physician Among Patients With Possible Melanoma: A Phase II randomized clinical trial

Fiona M. Walter*, Merel M. Pannebakker, Matthew E. Barclay, Katie Mills, Catherine L. Saunders, Peter Murchie, Pippa Corrie, Per Hall, Nigel Burrows, Jon Emery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Importance Melanoma is among the most lethal skin cancers; it has become the fifth most common cancer in the United Kingdom, and incidence rates are rising. Population approaches to reducing incidence have focused on mass media campaigns to promote earlier presentation and potentially improve melanoma outcomes; however, interventions using smartphone applications targeting those with the greatest risk could promote earlier presentation to health care professionals for individuals with new or changing skin lesions.

Objective To study the effect of a commercially available skin self-monitoring (SSM) smartphone application among individuals with increased risk of melanoma on their decision to seek help for changing skin lesions.

Design, Setting, and Participants This phase 2 randomized clinical trial was conducted in 12 family practices in Eastern England between 2016 and 2017. A total of 238 participants, aged 18 to 75 years and with an increased risk of melanoma, were identified using a real-time melanoma risk assessment tool in family practice waiting rooms. Analysis was intention to treat. Participants were observed for 12 months, and data analysis was conducted from January to August 2018.

Intervention The intervention and control groups received a consultation with standard written advice on sun protection and skin cancer detection. The intervention group had an SSM application loaded on their smartphone and received instructions for use and monthly self-monitoring reminders.

Main Outcomes and Measures The coprimary outcomes were skin consultation rates with family practice physicians and patient intervals, measured as the time between noticing a skin change and consulting with a family practice clinician. Follow-up questionnaires were sent at 6 and 12 months, and consultation rates were extracted from family practice records. Secondary outcomes included skin self-examination benefits and barriers, self-efficacy for consulting without delay, perceived melanoma risk, sun protection habits, and potential harms.

Results A total of 238 patients were randomized (median [interquartile range] age, 55 [43-65] years, 131 [55.0%] women, 227 [95.4%] white British; 119 [50.0%] randomized to the intervention group). Overall, 51 participants (21.4%) had consultations regarding skin changes during the 12 months of follow-up, and 157 participants (66.0%) responded to at least 1 follow-up questionnaire. There were no significant differences in skin consultation rates (adjusted risk ratio, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.56 to 1.66; P = .89), measures of SSM (adjusted mean difference, 0.08; 95% CI, −0.83 to 1.00; P = .86), or psychological harm (eg, Melanoma Worry Scale: adjusted mean difference, −0.12; 95% CI, −0.56 to 0.31; P = .58).

Conclusions and Relevance In this study, recruitment, retention, and initial delivery of the intervention were feasible, and this research provided no evidence of harm from the SSM smartphone application. However, no evidence of benefit on skin self-examination or health care consulting was found, and there is no reason at this stage to recommend its implementation in this population at increased risk of melanoma.

Trial Registration
isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN16061621
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere200001
Number of pages13
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number2
Early online date26 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding/Support: Dr Walter was funded by National Institute for Health Research Clinician Scientist award CS-012-030 for this research project. Dr Emery is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Practitioner Fellowship. Service support costs were obtained from the Department of Health with the support of NHS Cambridgeshire and the East of England Primary Care Research Network.


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