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Organ transplant recipient app manages high skin cancer risk

Photo: Organ transplant recipient app manages high skin cancer risk
Organ transplant recipients have a shocking 80 per cent higher risk of skin cancer due to the immune system suppressing medication they must take for life.

QUT skin cancer prevention researchers want transplant recipients to collaborate on the design of extra features for the SunVisor app to tailor it to their particular needs for protection from dangerous skin damage.

Public health researcher Dr Elke Hacker, from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said the SunVisor app would be modified according to feedback from transplant recipients.

“Apps and devices like smartphones and wearables are playing an increasing role in preventing skin cancer,” Dr Hacker said.

“Our research found young people are not averse to using apps or wearing wrist-worn devices personalised to their skin type to help them recognise when their skin has had enough UV exposure for the day.
“We are seeking transplant recipients attending or taking part in the Australian Transplant Games in September /October on the Gold Coast to trial the app and give us feedback.

“Our aim is to help Australia’s 15,000 transplant recipients manage their heightened risk of skin cancer while still enjoying time outside.

“The SunVisor app features a prediction tool that gives transplant recipients a speedometer of risk calculation indicating, at any particular moment, the amount of sun exposure they would receive if they were about to say, hang out the washing, or go cycling.

“This information could help them to take appropriate sunburn prevention measures such as 50+ sunscreen, a hat, or shirt, or deferring the activity to a time when UV levels are lower.

“Organ transplant recipients are particularly vulnerable to skin cancer and deadly melanoma because they have to take immunosuppressive medication which inhibits the skin’s ability to repair DNA damage caused by sun exposure.”

Dr Hacker said the SunVisor app captured information from smartphones’ light and motion sensors.

“We can use this data to estimate how long they were in the sun and the amount of UV exposure they have had," she said.

“We are looking for transplant recipients to use the app and help us co-design a ‘Fitbit’-style dashboard to display the information they most need.”

Transplant Australia’s CEO Chris Thomas said Transplant Australia was proud to work with QUT on this exciting research project.

“There’s been plenty or research to identify the risks but other than the general messages of ‘slip, slop, slap’ we haven’t really been able to advise recipients practically about their sun habits,” Mr Thomas said.

“Transplant Australia is committed to helping recipients lead the longest and best life possible with their transplanted organ.

“This means taking care of their entire body, not just their transplanted organ. And as our skin is the most exposed to harmful sunrays, this app is a welcome preventive measure.”

Dr Hacker is looking for people to test the sun safety app who are over 15 years old and attending the Australian Transplant Games at the Gold Coast. Friends, family and spectators at the event are also encouraged to participate, as sun safety is important for everyone in a high UV environment such as Queensland.

Participants will be asked to use the app at the Australian Transplant Games and take part in a phone survey after using the app. Participants who complete the study enter a prize draw to win one of 5 x $100 gift cards.

To take part in the study, email Dr Elke Hacker or phone 3138 9674.


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