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Systematic Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Public Health | doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2019.00298

Mobilizing Breast Cancer Prevention Research through Smartphone Apps: A Systematic Review of the Literature

  • 1Columbia University, United States
  • 2Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, United States

Background: Breast cancer rates have been increasing worldwide, particularly among young women, suggesting important interactions between genes and health behaviors. At the same time, mobile technology, including smartphones applications (apps), has emerged as a new tool for delivering healthcare and health-related services. As of 2018, there were nearly 600 publicly available breast cancer apps designed to provide disease and treatment information, to manage disease, and to raise overall awareness. However, the extent to which apps are incorporated into breast cancer prevention research is unknown. Therefore, the objective of this review was to determine how mobile applications are being used for breast cancer prevention among women across the cancer control continuum.
Methods: Using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, we searched PubMed and Web of Science Core Collection databases using the keywords breast cancer, smartphone, mobile application, and phone app. Full-length journal articles available in English that addressed the research question were included. We categorized articles by prevention type (primary, secondary, and tertiary) and phase of research (protocol, development, feasibility, pilot, measurement, and effectiveness), and identified common themes and gaps.
Results: Our search yielded 82 studies (69 unique) that used apps in breast cancer prevention research across 20 countries. Approximately half of the named apps were publicly available. The majority (73%) of studies targeted tertiary prevention; 15% targeted secondary and 13% targeted primary prevention. Apps were used across all phases of research with the predominant phase being feasibility studies in tertiary prevention (34%), effectiveness studies in secondary prevention (63%), and development (30%) and effectiveness (30%) studies in primary prevention. Common uses included assessing outcomes relevant to clinical care coordination, quality of life, increasing self-efficacy and screening behaviors, and tracking and managing health behaviors. We identified the following gaps: few effectiveness studies in tertiary prevention, minimal use of apps for breast cancer etiology or early detection, and few interventions in those at average risk of breast cancer.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that while mobile apps can inform breast cancer prevention, more work is needed to incorporate apps into studies of breast cancer etiology and implementation.

Keywords: breast cancer, Cancer control, Mobile applications (apps), smartphone, prevention, Systematic review

Received: 04 Apr 2019; Accepted: 02 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Houghton, Howland and McDonald. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Lauren C. Houghton, Columbia University, New York City, United States,