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Health Fusion: Study finds cancer misinformation on social media


Some people aren’t going to like this news, but I think it’s important. A study from the Journal of the National Cancer shows that if you get information about cancer on social media, you may be getting some misinformation that could be harmful to your health.

The study’s authors found that one-third of the most popular cancer articles contain info that’s not true, or at least, not proven. And that worries them, because people with cancer may be choosing treatment options that could negatively impact their health and chances of survival. They also found that articles with misinformation get more attention than those that contain evidence-based information known to work.

The lead investigator got interested in this issue after another study showed a higher risk of death among patients who used unproven methods to treat cancer as an alternative to conventional, evidence-based treatments.

“We found misinformation is clearly prevalent in cancer articles on social media, and the vast majority of those pieces contain harmful information,” says Dr. Skyler Johnson, a physician-scientist at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

He also says he understands that people want information that will help them or their loved ones. He suggests that people be open with their health care providers about what they’re seeing on social media. Let them know what you’re thinking and ask questions.

For what it’s worth, I understand why people seek out and believe health information on social media. It’s hard to know what to believe and what sources to trust, especially if you don’t have a health or medical background or if you’ve had a bad experience with the system in the past. That’s why it’s important to ask questions, get second opinions and to base your decisions on what’s been proven to work — the science.

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For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

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