Most websites disagree with PCa screening recommendation

November 3, 2014

A vast majority of top-ranked consumer health websites disagree with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendation against screening for prostate cancer, according to a study presented at the American College of Surgeons clinical congress in San Francisco.

A vast majority of top-ranked consumer health websites disagree with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendation against screening for prostate cancer, according to a study presented at the American College of Surgeons clinical congress in San Francisco.

RELATED: USPSTF PSA grade has ‘minimal’ impact on screening

In an Internet search for the phrase “prostate cancer screening” on three main U.S. search engines, study authors found that most sites appearing on the first results page recommended a patient-individualized approach to screening. Only 17% advise against screening.

“Our study results suggest that two-thirds of the online community disagree with the USPSTF recommendation against prostate cancer screening,” said lead author Philip Zhao, MD, of North Shore–Long Island Jewish Health System, New Hyde Park, NY, in an American College of Surgeons news release.

Dr. Zhao performed the research while a resident physician at Rutgers–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, under the guidance of Robert E. Weiss, MD.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended in 2012 that men of all ages not receive the PSA test or other tests to screen for prostate cancer regardless of their risk factors for prostate cancer, contending that the potential benefits of screening do not outweigh the risks.

To learn what recommendations the public is accessing about prostate cancer screening, Dr. Zhao and colleagues conducted a web-based study because the Internet is widely used to search for health information. The researchers chose Google, Microsoft’s Bing, and Yahoo! search engines, which are the three most used U.S. search engines. Because 95% of web traffic goes to sites ranked on search engines’ first results page, the researchers limited their analysis to sites appearing on the initial page of each of the three searches for “prostate cancer screening.”

Dr. Zhao’s team found 29 distinct websites, with seven sites common to all three search engines. They analyzed all 29 websites for type of site host, accuracy of content, and screening recommendations. The investigators found that 11 sites were from U.S. commercial media, 10 from the U.S. government, four from health organizations, three from academic institutions, and one from a foreign government (United Kingdom).

 

Next: Only one site provides incorrect info

 

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Only one site, a commercial source, presented incorrect information about prostate cancer screening, according to Dr. Zhao.

Of the 29 websites, five sites (17.2%) recommended against screening for prostate cancer and another five gave no recommendations, the authors reported.

Most sites (65.5%) advocated that men make an informed decision about prostate cancer screening after discussing the individual risks and benefits with their health care provider.

“I think that’s the right approach and the one being advocated by most health care organizations,” Dr. Zhao said. “Zero screening is not backed up by good scientific evidence. PSA screening has drawbacks, but it’s the best modality we have at this point to detect prostate cancer early.”

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