PURPOSE - We assessed the quality of information available to patients on prostate cancer on the Internet.
MATERIALS AND METHODS - The search engine Webcrawler was used with the search term "prostate cancer" to generate a list of 75 websites which were reviewed for currency, disclosure, attribution, interactivity and content. A rating tool was designed including 50 elements considered essential for a comprehensive review of prostate cancer, and each website was judged for degree of coverage and accuracy (each rated on a scale of 1 to 3) of information for each element.
RESULTS - Of the 75 sites 39 contained information about prostate cancer. Only 9 sites indicated a date of last update within 6 months. References were rarely given (in 5) and a disclaimer was provided on less than half of the sites (18). The sites covered a mean of 24 elements (range 6 to 43) with a mean coverage rating of 1.0 to 2.6 (1.8 overall). Of 943 elements covered on 39 sites, 94% were completely correct, 5% were mostly correct and 1% was mostly incorrect.
CONCLUSIONS - The information on the Internet is of sufficient quality to aid in patient decision making. However, there are numerous shortcomings especially related to currency, disclosure and attribution. Degree of coverage is highly variable and there is a deficiency in balance of evidence found on many sites. The urologist needs to be aware of such shortcomings when counseling patients on prostate cancer.