Article Abstract

Towards research-tested smartphone applications for preventing breast cancer

Authors: Steven S. Coughlin, Herpreet Thind, Benyuan Liu, Lt Col Candy Wilson


Efforts to prevent breast cancer and other chronic illnesses have focused on promoting physical activity, healthy diet and nutrition, and avoidance of excessive alcohol consumption. Smartphone applications (apps) offer a low-cost, effective strategy for breast cancer prevention in women through behavioral change. However, there are currently no research-tested smartphone apps for breast cancer prevention that are suitable for women with varying levels of health literacy and eHealth literacy. In this perspective, we consider modifiable risk factors for breast cancer in women in relation to the development of smartphone apps to promote healthy behaviors associated with breast cancer-risk reduction. First, we provide a summary of breast cancer risk factors that are modifiable through behavioral change including their corresponding relative risk. Second, we discuss scientific issues related to the development of smartphone apps for the primary prevention of breast cancer and offer suggestions for further research. Smartphone apps for preventing breast cancer should be tailored for women at different life stages (e.g., young women, women who are post-menopausal, and older women). Topics such as breastfeeding and oral contraceptives are appropriate for younger women. Weight management, physical activity, avoiding cigarette smoking, and dispelling breast cancer myths are appropriate for women of all ages. As women age, topics such as hormone replacement therapy or comorbid health conditions become more important to address. Apps for breast cancer prevention should be grounded in a behavioral theory or framework and should be suitable for people with varying levels of health literacy. Future developments in smartphone apps for breast cancer prevention should include apps that are tailored for specific cultural, racial, and ethnic groups.