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Cancer. 2017 Apr 15;123(8):1382-1389. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30499. Epub 2016 Dec 21.

Text message reminders increased colorectal cancer screening in a randomized trial with Alaska Native and American Indian people.

Author information

Partnerships for Native Health, Washington State University, Seattle, Washington.
Southcentral Foundation, Anchorage, Alaska.
United States Public Health Service, Indian Health Service, Region X, Southcentral Foundation.



Alaska Native and American Indian people (AN/AIs) have a high incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) and CRC-related mortality. Screening can prevent death from CRC, but screening rates are low in racially and ethnically diverse populations. The authors conducted a randomized controlled trial using text messaging to increase CRC screening among unscreened AN/AIs in a tribal health care system in Anchorage, Alaska.


The intervention entailed up to 3 text messages sent 1 month apart. The authors randomized 2386 AN/AIs aged 40 to 75 years who were eligible for CRC screening to the intervention or usual-care control conditions. Screening status was ascertained from electronic health records 3 months and 6 months after the last text message. Hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention, stratified by age and sex.


The intervention increased CRC screening for AN/AIs aged 50 to 75 years (HR, 1.42; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.97-2.09) and aged 40 to 49 years (HR, 1.24; 95% CI, 0.95-1.62). Within both age groups, the HRs were higher for women (HR, 1.69 [95% CI, 1.02-2.80] and HR, 1.37 [95% CI, 1.01-1.88]) compared with men (HR, 1.09 [95% CI, 0.59-1.99] and HR, 0.90 [95% CI, 0.54-1.53]). Interaction analysis yielded P values of .55 and .09, respectively, for age and sex.


A simple text messaging intervention was found to increase CRC screening rates in AN/AIs, a group with high CRC morbidity and mortality. Text messaging may be a cost-effective means of reducing CRC screening disparities in AN/AIs and other populations. Cancer 2017;123:1382-1389. © 2016 American Cancer Society.


Alaska Natives; American Indians; Native Americans; cancer screening; colorectal cancer; randomized controlled trial; text messaging

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