I recently saw an advertisement on a professional networking group I belong to for a seminar on cancer prevention. I was excited – how great that this group is bringing in an expert to talk about health and wellness – something we tend to forget to prioritize in the hustle and bustle of work, family and life. Imagine my disappointment upon clicking over and seeing that the seminar leader had no expertise in this area – no formal education, no experience conducting or reviewing research. This so-called “expert” merely had a laundry list a mile long of factors that prevent cancer – in her opinion. Many of those things have very little (or no) good science behind them. In fact, she listed things that have been shown to be not true. Unfortunately, this isn’t a unique experience, well intentioned bloggers often post (or repost) information of questionable science or with no scientific basis at all.
Here’s where I think the harm in this kind of post comes – we are all busy and most of us don’t have time to do everything right every day. So we make choices about what to prioritize. If we mislead people about what can and what cannot prevent cancer, we send them down a path of prioritizing something with little or no impact instead of encouraging them to focus on the things where they are most likely to get a return on their investment (be it time or money or both).
It is all the more sad because there is a lot of quality science out there showing that you CAN reduce disease risk – even cancer!
On the Internet, it’s reader beware. So it pays to take some time to learn how to assess what you’re actually reading. Surely, there are reputable organizations and individuals that have slightly different takes on the science than my colleagues and I do, but knowing who these groups/people are and what their background is helps determine what credence to give them.
The 8 ways to stay healthy campaign from my colleagues and I at the Siteman Cancer Center might seem like any other “simple health tips,” but they are really evidence-based medicine for prevention. A rigorous process went into the evaluation of the science and the development of the messages.
For some tips on finding good health information online, see this piece we put together with the Komen Foundation: Using the Internet to Find Health Information.