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Evaluating Online Sources of Health Information

  • Posted: 03/06/2012

Evaluating Online Sources of Health Information

How can you be careful about cancer information on websites, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, Facebook, and e-mail?

Anatomy of a Cancer Treatment Scam

You will need Adobe Flash Player 8 or later and JavaScript enabled to view this video.

The Federal Trade Commission developed this video to help people maintain a healthy level of skepticism when they are searching for information about cancer, so that they don’t become victims of fraud.

Online sources of health information should make it easy for people to learn who is responsible for posting information, the original source of the information that is posted, and the medical credentials of people who prepare or review the material that is posted.

The Federal Trade Commission has produced a helpful video, posted at the right, that describes how you can be a careful consumer of health information that you find online. More resources are listed below.

Questions You Should Ask

  1. Who manages this information?

    The person or group that has published health information online should be identified somewhere.

  2. Who is paying for the project, and what is their purpose?

    You should be able to find this in the “About Us” section.

  3. What is the original source of the information that they have posted?

    If the information was originally published in a research journal or a book, they should say which so that you can find it.

  4. How is information reviewed before it gets posted?

    Most health information publications have someone with medical or research credentials (e.g., someone who has earned an MD, DO, or PhD) review the information before it gets posted, to make sure it is correct.

  5. How current is the information?

    Online health information sources should show you when the information was posted or last reviewed.

  6. If they are asking for personal information, how will they use that information and how will they protect your privacy?

    This is very important. Do not share personal information until you understand the policies under which it will be used and you are comfortable with any risk involved in sharing your information online.

Where to Get More Help

Common Cancer Myths and Misconceptions 
The latest science-based information concerning some common misconceptions about cancer. Learn the facts to worry less and make good health decisions. 

Cancer Treatment Scams
A page from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that advises people to ask their health care provider about products that claim to cure or treat cancer and offers tips for spotting treatment scams.

For Consumers: Protecting Yourself
A page from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that includes links to several resources that have tips about buying medicines and other products online.