YouTube is an easily accessed and oftentimes entertaining resource for science and health information, with a repository of more than 7 billion videos. But how accurate is the presented information? In a study published in the European Association of Urology, researchers reported on the largest, most comprehensive study to date assessing the quality of prostate cancer information available on the medium.

The researchers evaluated the first 150 videos to appear on prostate cancer screening and treatment. They determined the quality of the presented information using the validated DISCERN quality criteria for consumer health information and the Patient Education Materials and Assessment Tool.

The evaluated videos had up to 1.3 million views with an overall average of 45,223 views, and a moderate quality of information. Approximately 75% of videos described the benefits of prostate cancer screening, with 53% describing the harms. Only 50% of videos promoted shared decision making between patients and providers as recommended by current guidelines. Just 54% of the videos defined medical terms, and even fewer provided summaries or references.

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Interestingly, videos with higher quality scientific information were correlated with lower viewer engagement as determined by the YouTube thumbs up for like or thumbs down for dislike. In some videos, the comments section contained advertising and peer-to-peer advice.

A startling 77% of videos, with a total viewership of more than 6 million viewers, had potentially misinformed and or biased content within the video or comments section. Patients should be cautioned that “a greater number of views and thumbs up on YouTube does not mean that the information is trustworthy,” concluded the authors.

Reference

Loeb S, Sengupta S, Butaney M, et al. Dissemination of misinformative and biased information about prostate cancer on YouTube [published online November 27, 2018]. Eur Urol. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2018.10.056