The comparability of information collected through telephone interviews and information collected through mailed questionnaires has not been well studied. As part of the first phase of a randomized controlled trial of population screening for melanoma in Queensland, Australia, the authors compared histories of skin examination reported in telephone interviews and self-administered mailed questionnaires. A total of 1,270 subjects each completed a telephone interview and a mailed questionnaire 1 month apart in 1999; 564 subjects received the interview first, and 706 received the mailed questionnaire first. Agreement between the two methods was 91.2% and 88.6% for whole-body skin examination by a physician in the last 12 months and the last 3 years, respectively, and 81.9% for whole-body skin self-examination in the last 12 months. Agreement was lower for "any" skin self-examination. Agreement between the two methods was similar regardless of whether the interview or the questionnaire was administered first. Missing data were less frequent for interviews (0.5%) than for mailed questionnaires (3.8%). Costs were estimated at A$9.55 (US$6.21) per completed interview and A$3.01 (US$1.96) per questionnaire. The similarity of results obtained using telephone interviews and mailed questionnaires, coupled with the substantially higher cost of telephone interviews, suggests that self-administered mailed questionnaires are an appropriate method of assessing this health behavior.
American Journal of Epidemiology / Vol. 160, no. 6, pp.598-604