The Particulars: Data indicate that patients are increasingly using the internet to obtain health-related information. In 2012, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released recommendations against routine prostate cancer screening. The online consensus regarding prostate cancer screening—including accuracy, use of reliable sources, and support of the USPSTF recommendations—is not well known.

Data Breakdown: For a study, researchers analyzed the first page of results after performing a search for “prostate cancer screening” using three top search engines. Among 10 internet sites from the U.S. government, one from Britain, three from academic institutions, four from health organizations, and 11 from commercial media sites, the study team found that 96.5% of all websites targeted the public. One presented information that was biased and could easily be misinterpreted. Only about half of the sites included references and roughly two-thirds advocated informed decisions after discussing screening risks and benefits with physicians. Five sites offered no conclusions and only five recommended against prostate cancer screening.

Take Home Pearl: Most websites that focus their content on prostate cancer screening appear to contradict the USPSTF recommendations against routine prostate cancer screening.