US Cancer Charity Issues Safe Search Guidance

Some years ago, we created a toolkit to help people searching for health apps to do that safely. So, it’s always reassuring to see charities supporting patients guide individuals towards trusted resources.

Where to start finding information

Building on work by the US National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society produced a very comprehensive guide to help people start searching the internet for cancer information. Although focused on cancer and American patients, many of the principles they identify apply to all therapy areas and countries.

Look for the warning signs

The Society lists a wide range of warning signs when searching for information, including:

  • How to spot sponsored links and contents
  • Check out who runs the website and pays for it.

They also highlight that even when a site may appear to be from a charity or non-profit group, still take care:

“Even on non-profit websites, if the site is full of ads or supported or funded by an outside company, it’s important to ask yourself whether the information there might be biased in some way. This isn’t always the case, but it should make you more cautious.” – American Cancer Society.

When we investigate who funds apps and other digital materials, it can be far from transparent, and can involve tracking back to find the ultimate ‘owner’ or sponsor of an organisation or project. To help people get started with cancer searches the guide includes a set of trusted governmental, academic and patient group sites.

Check out the ‘About us’ first

The Society argues that much of the essential information to guide us on whether the source of information is trustworthy should be made clearly available in an ‘About us’ section. This should include items to make an informed decision, including proper contact information, the purpose of the site, and the intended audiences. Crucially this can also confirm where the site is based, as clinical guidance and practice can vary widely.

Check out the information quality

The guide also lists clear information on checking out references for clinical information and checking whether it is up to date. Good practice is to list both the publishing date, and when the information is due to be reviewed. The Society’s guide to the internet itself lists when it was last medically reviewed, and although some of its own links are now out of date, the guidance is both valuable and timeless.

NEXT STEPS:

Check out the American Cancer Society’s guidance on searching for cancer information at…

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