The most popular YouTube videos on prostate cancer often offer biased or misleading prostate cancer information, posing potential health risks to patients.
According to NYU School of Medicine and its Perlmutter Cancer Center, USA, research found that 77% of YouTube videos regarding prostate cancer had factual errors or biased content in either the video or its comments section. Misleading prostate cancer information has serious implications to those who are suffering from the condition or want to learn about related symptoms.
Misleading prostate cancer information
The study found that 75% of the videos fully described the benefits of various treatments while only 53% sufficiently captured potential harms and side effects. Another 19% recommended alternative or complimentary therapies that are largely unproven. The researchers highlight one potentially harmful example in which a particular video promoted ‘injecting herbs’ into the prostate to treat cancer, an assertion not backed by medical evidence.
Researchers say the YouTube audience for the examined videos was large, with average total viewership at 45,000 but as high as 1.3 million.
More than 600,000 prostate cancer videos are posted on the social media platform.
The credibility of YouTube videos
Senior investigator and urologist Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc, who chairs a panel of social media experts for the American Urological Association (AUA) explains: “Our study shows that people really need to be wary of many YouTube videos on prostate cancer.”
“There is valuable information available in them, but people need to check the source to make sure it’s credible and to beware of how quickly videos become outdated as care guidelines constantly evolve with the science.”
The latest American guidelines revised last year, recommend that men between the ages of 55 and 69 should talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of blood-test screening for prostate cancer.
Loeb describes how many popular videos predate this change and also encourage more aggressive treatment than is now considered medically necessary for low-risk disease.
Vital to avoid misleading prostate cancer information
It is vital for care providers to direct their patients to trusted sources for information on prostate cancer. Loeb encourages other physicians and providers to participate in social media platforms like YouTube to produce videos that offer evidence-based advice.
Loeb says the volume of videos on YouTube makes it impractical for medical experts to continually review them all as part of any ‘policing’ effort. But, she says, physicians and other viewers should use the YouTube reporting feature for alerting its officials to videos that promote misleading information.