Cancer Misinformation on Social Media
With the spread of social media and easy access, information pollution about health is increasing day by day. In a study conducted in 2018-2019, it was observed that in the 4 most popular articles shared on social media, 1/3 of the information about the 4 most common cancer types was false or misleading. In some articles, however, the misleading information was found to be serious enough to suggest alternative unproven treatments.
Researchers have found that people are more likely to engage in false information rather than factual information. They saw this in a research on prostate cancer on YouTube in 2019. Youtube has more than 1 billion users and more than 600,000 prostate cancer related information.
An average of 45,000 videos were reviewed, of which only 54% used medical terms and few cited references. Many comments under the videos contain misleading/false information. It has been observed that videos containing incorrect information are watched and liked more. For example, one of the most watched videos suggested injecting herbs into the prostate.
In another study, 200 articles on breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer were examined by experts in the social media (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest) (50 articles were examined for each cancer type). It has been determined that 77% of the articles containing false information contain more or less harmful information. In the content of the article; There are articles that suggest misleading treatment recommendations, misinformation about the effects of the proposed treatment, and delaying or not seeking medical help for treatable cases.
Several options have been proposed for how people can distinguish this information
Pay attention to the extension of an article you read on the website. Government websites end in ".gov" and those ending with ".edu" are run by a university or other educational institution. These are sources that you can usually trust. If you see ".org" or ".com" at the end of a web address, it may also be a trusted site.
If the original source is redirecting, refer to the original source of the news.
If the information was originally published in a research journal or a book, they should say which one(s) so that you can find it.
Most health information publications have someone with medical or research credentials (e.g., someone who has earned an M.D., D.O., or Ph.D.) review the information before it gets posted to make sure it's correct.