New research suggests that mesothelioma patients looking for cancer information online could do more harm than good if they are looking in the wrong places.
Researchers identified 200 cancer-related articles posted on social media between 2018 and 2019. Experts from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) reviewed the articles for inaccuracies and harmful information.
Mesothelioma and the Search for Cancer Information
It can be devastating to receive a cancer diagnosis. For many families, a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma is especially frightening. Mesothelioma is very rare and highly aggressive. The prognosis for mesothelioma is usually not good.
It is natural for patients and families to turn to the Internet to find more cancer information. There are excellent sources of reliable mesothelioma news and information online. But, as the new study shows, there is also dangerous information.
Researchers found some of the most harmful cancer information on the sites where many people spend the most time: social media.
Why Mesothelioma Patients Should Not Get Their Facts from Social Media
The researchers focused on four popular social media sites for articles: Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. They identified the 50 most popular articles on each of four common cancer types: breast, prostate, colorectal and lung.
Two panel members from NCCN reviewed the articles. Sixty-five articles contained wrong or misleading information. In many cases, these articles either misused data, or failed to contain supporting data.
Nearly 77 percent of the inaccurate articles contained cancer information that could be harmful to patients. Unfortunately, these were the articles that got the most clicks, shares, reads, and likes.
“The median number of engagements for articles with harmful information was statistically significantly greater than safe articles,” writes lead author Skyler Johnson, MD, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Safe Places to Learn More About Mesothelioma
The first and best place to turn for cancer information is your own healthcare provider. Your oncologist understands your unique situation and can provide the most accurate and relevant information for your mesothelioma case.
But there are also reliable places on the Internet to learn more about mesothelioma. Surviving Mesothelioma is one of those places. All articles on this site are based on peer-reviewed research published in reputable medical journals. Surviving Mesothelioma articles always provide the source of the data. Beware of any article that does not offer clear references to its sources.
Some other trustworthy websites for mesothelioma patients and families:
- The National Cancer Institute
- The American Cancer Society
- Medline Plus
- Websites of top US Cancer Centers
- The Mayo Clinic
Johnson, S, et al, “Cancer Misinformation and Harmful Information on Facebook and Other Social Media: A Brief Report”, July 22, 2021, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, https://academic.oup.com/jnci/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jnci/djab141/6323231