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Accuracy Of Medical Information On The Web And Other Social Media Sites

San Diego, CA, May 5,2013 – Two new studies examining medical information and social media will be presented at the 108th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) in San Diego, CA May 4-8.

“Each year, millions of people search for medical, health and physician information on the web and other social media outlets either for themselves or loved ones,” said Kevin McVary, MD, AUA spokesperson and chair of the AUA Public Media Committee. “It is important consumers talk to their physician about any medical- or health-related information they find to ensure it is accurate, timely and safe.”

Testosterone Replacement Therapy and the World Wide Web: An Assessment of the Quality of Information (Abstract #5944):Hypogonadism (reduction or absence of hormones being released from the sex glands) is one of the fastest growing conditions in the United States with prescriptions for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) exponentially rising. Given patients often seek TRT medical providers via the internet; this study reviewed how providers in large metropolitan areas promote TRT on their patient-oriented websites. The websites for 70 providers in five of the most populous U.S. cities (Chicago, Houston, Los Angles, New York City and Philadelphia) offering TRT were assessed.

Overall results showed urologists and endocrinologists are in the minority of providers promoting TRT on the internet as they are more likely to have a discussion about TRT with patients compared to their counterparts. Additionally, those websites directed by a urologist or endocrinologist were twice as likely to discuss risks of TRT (41 percent vs. 20 percent p =0.05) compared to TRT clinic websites run by other providers. Substantial variability in content on TRT-provider websites exists, which may contribute to misinformation regarding this expanding field. Patients seeking treatment for hypogonadism should speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of TRT.

Prostate Cancer on YouTube: Accurate and Unbiased Information is Hard to Find (Abstract #7177): More than 800 million people visit the video-sharing site YouTube each month. The relative ease of posting a video and availability of a mass audience make the site an ideal platform to connect with the public about prostate cancer. The site offers many videos in this area, yet the information is not vetted for accuracy and appropriateness. Although some videos provide useful information supported by evidence, others may be misleading as they are posted by entities promoting a product or service. This variety makes it difficult for the consumer to distinguish between accurate and misleading information and thus may lead to significant misinformation by the user. The goal of this study was to evaluate the content of the most popular YouTube videos featuring prostate cancer-related content.

Results showed the search term “prostate cancer” in September, 2012, yielded 44,800 results. Videos were most often posted by news stations (38 percent), medical professionals/hospitals (24 percent) or other sources and were on average 3 minutes, 54 seconds long with an average count of 1,919 views per month. Prostate cancer-related videos contained an average of 10 facts (2.8 facts per minute) and 28 percent provided outright incorrect, misleading and/or incomplete information. In addition, 62 percent of the videos contained biased information (e.g., favoring a particular treatment option) and 76 percent were categorized as a marketing effort. Although there were no significant predictors of view count, preliminary analyses showed biased videos (β = -.44, p < .01) and videos advertising a service or product (β = -.58, p = .001) were significantly more likely to provide inaccurate and misleading information, compared to nonbiased, non-marketing videos.

NOTE TO REPORTERS: Experts are available to discuss these studies. To arrange an interview with an expert, please contact the AUA Communications Office at the number above or e-mail

 About the American Urological Association: Founded in 1902 and headquartered near Baltimore, Maryland, the American Urological Association is a leading advocate for the specialty of urology, and has more than 19,000 members throughout the world. The AUA is a premier urologic association, providing invaluable support to the urologic community as it pursues its mission of fostering the highest standards of urologic care through education, research and the formulation of health policy.

Christine Frey, AUA