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Web-based, alternative cancer information can be dangerous.

Many Web sites offering information about complementary and alternative medicine treatments for cancer offer some worthwhile information, but others are downright dangerous.

That's what two British researchers concluded after evaluating 32 of the most popular English language Web sites offering information about complementary or alternative medicine for the treatment of cancer from December 2002 to January 2003 (Ann. Oncol. 15[5]:733-42, 2004).

"The results of our survey are somewhat reassuring as they suggest that the majority of the evaluated Web sites provide valuable and reliable information.... Most of the Web sites were of medium quality and provided additional links to other main cancer Web sites," said Dr. K. Schmidt and Dr. E. Ernst, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Exeter, England.

Two Web sites stood out in terms of references to scientific information, clearly identified ownership of the site, interactivity, balance and currency of information, clearly identified authors (including qualifications), and navigability. Those sites were www.quackwatch.org and www.jr2.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/booth.

Three Web sites were categorized as high risk to patients: www.heall.com, www.healthy.net, and www.worldwidehealthcenter.net. These sites--and 16% of sites overall--discouraged patients from using conventional cancer care. Risk to patients was evaluated based on whether the site discouraged the use of conventional medicine or adherence to the advice of a clinician, provided opinions and experiences rather than factual information, and provided commercial details.

The researchers identified potential Internet sites through the first 50 Web sites returned (i.e., the most popular 50 sites) by using eight popular search engines for the terms "complementary" or "alternative medicine" and "cancer."

The researchers cautioned that because the Internet changes so rapidly, their findings apply only to the 2-month period of the search.
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Title Annotation:Clinical Rounds
Author:Wachter, Kerri
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 1, 2004
Words:291
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