Science News

Doctors Wary of the Internet

Sun, 20th Jan 2002

Part of the show Around The World Yacht Race Medicine

Frequently patients coming to the doctors these days have spent time browsing the internet for information about their condition or symptoms, but doctors warned in the Lancet this week that information given on the internet is often incomplete and may be incorrect. A team of US doctors looked at pages providing information on melanoma, a common form of skin cancer. Worryingly they checked 75 websites sites against a checklist containing 35 pieces of information that they regarded as essential to informing people properly about melanoma, but found that over 60% of the sites had fewer than 8 of the most important facts. More importantly, 14% of them gave incorrect information. This means that you should be very careful when looking up information, particularly health-related information, on the internet, mainly because there are no controls in place to check the accuracy of what you are reading. It is therefore important to 'read around' the subject by looking at lots of sites, rather than relying on just one, to get a balanced view of a topic. The authors of the study also suggest that doctors should take an active role in helping their patients to find accurate internet information.

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