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Commonly cited website quality criteria are not effective at identifying inaccurate online information about breast cancer
Article first published online: 11 FEB 2008
Copyright © 2008 American Cancer Society
Volume 112, Issue 6, pages 1206–1213, 15 March 2008
How to Cite
Bernstam, E. V., Walji, M. F., Sagaram, S., Sagaram, D., Johnson, C. W. and Meric-Bernstam, F. (2008), Commonly cited website quality criteria are not effective at identifying inaccurate online information about breast cancer. Cancer, 112: 1206–1213. doi: 10.1002/cncr.23308
Fax: (713) 745-4926
- Issue published online: 3 MAR 2008
- Article first published online: 11 FEB 2008
- Manuscript Accepted: 9 OCT 2007
- Manuscript Revised: 12 SEP 2007
- Manuscript Received: 20 JUL 2007
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- Health e-Technologies
- National Library of Medicine. Grant Number: 5K22LM008306
- National Center for Research Resources. Grant Number: 1UL1RR024148
- Interdisciplinary Biosciences Training
- National Library of Medicine. Grant Number: 5T15LM07093
- breast neoplasms;
- health education/methods;
- information services/*standards/utilization;
- internet/*standards/statistics & numerical data/trends;
- complementary therapies/*standards/trends;
- medical informatics/*standards/statistics & numerical data/trends;
- quality indicators;
- healthcare/standards/statistics & numerical data
Consumers increasingly consult the Internet for breast cancer information. Concerned about accuracy, multiple organizations developed quality criteria for online content. However, the effectiveness of these tools is unknown. The authors determined whether existing quality criteria can identify inaccurate breast cancer information online.
The authors identified 343 unique webpages by using 15 breast cancer-related queries on 5 popular web search-engines. Each page was assessed for 15 quality criteria and 3 website characteristics, link type (sponsored or not), search engine used to find the page, and domain extension. Two clinician-reviewers independently assessed accuracy and topics covered. The authors then determined whether quality criteria, website characteristics, and topics were associated with the presence of inaccurate statements.
The authors found 41 inaccurate statements on 18 webpages (5.2%). No quality criteria or website characteristic, singly or in combination, reliably identified inaccurate information. The total number of quality criteria met by a website accounted for a small fraction of the variability in the presence of inaccuracies (point biserial r = −0.128; df = 341; P = .018; r2 = 0.016). However, webpages containing information on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) were significantly more likely to contain inaccuracies compared with pages without CAM information (odds ratio [OR], 15.6; P < .001).
Most breast cancer information that consumers are likely to encounter online is accurate. However, commonly cited quality criteria do not identify inaccurate information. Webpages that contain information about CAM are relatively likely to contain inaccurate statements. Consumers searching for health information online should still consult a clinician before taking action. Cancer 2008. © 2008 American Cancer Society.