In a new study, researchers found that the most popular YouTube videos on prostate cancer often offer misleading or biased medical information that poses potential health risks to patients
This analysis of the social media platform was conducted by researchers at NYU School of Medicine and its Perlmutter Cancer Center.
The YouTube audience for prostate cancer videos was large, with an 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 study analyzed 150 most-viewed YouTube videos on the disease.
The team evaluated each video’s educational value based on more than a dozen features, including accuracy, level of misinformation, and commercial bias.
Previous studies on prostate cancer videos were smaller and did not use standardized techniques to evaluate their content.
The study found that 77% had factual errors or biased content in either the video or its comments section.
It also 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 complementary therapies that are largely unproven, say the study authors.
In addition, only 50% of the videos analyzed describe “shared decision-making,” the current standard of care in prostate cancer screening and treatment.
The researchers cite one potentially harmful example in which a video promoted “injecting herbs” into the prostate to treat cancer, an assertion not backed by medical evidence.
The team suggests 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in them, but people need to check the source to make sure it’s credible and to beware of how quickly videos become outdated as care guidelines constantly evolve with the science.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.
Many popular videos predate this change and also encourage more aggressive treatment than is now considered medically necessary for low-risk disease.
The team says that care providers should direct their patients to trusted sources for information on prostate cancer.
They also encourage other physicians and providers to participate in social media platforms like YouTube to produce videos that offer evidence-based advice.
The volume of videos on YouTube makes it impractical for medical experts to continually review them all as part of any “policing” effort.
But physicians and other viewers should use the YouTube reporting feature for alerting its officials to videos that promote misleading information.
The study senior investigator and urologist Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc, who chairs a panel of social media experts for the American Urological Association (AUA).
The study is Publishing in the journal European Urology.
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Source: European Urology