Malignant websites? Analyzing the quality of prostate cancer education web resources

Kevin Kobes, Ilene B. Harris, Glenn Regehr, Ara Tekian, Paris-Ann Ingledew


Introduction: Prostate cancer patients are using more web resources to inform themselves about their cancer. However, patients may receive out-of-date or inaccurate information due to lack of regulation. The current study looks to systematically analyze the quality of websites accessed by patients with prostate cancer.

Methods: The term “prostate cancer” was searched in Google and the metasearch engines, Yippy and Dogpile, and the top 100 hits related to patient information were compiled from over 32 million hits. A standardized tool was used to examine 100 sites with respect to attribution, currency, usability, and content.

Results: Of the top 100 websites relating to prostate cancer information, only 27% identified an author, of which 16% had their credentials displayed. The majority of websites disclosed ownership (97%). Over half of the websites did not include the date of the last update and of those that did, only 66% were current within two years. According to the Flesch Kincaid grade level tool for readability, the majority (87%) of sites were found to be at a high school level, while 6% were at university level. Finally, content varied among websites; 90% of sites provided information on detection and workup and treatments, but only 14% of sites included information on prognosis.

Conclusions: The reliability of websites presenting prostate cancer information is questionable. There were noted deficiencies in attribution, currency, and readability. While information on detection and treatment is well-covered, information related to prognosis is lacking.

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