Internet Proves Positive Ally in Cancer Prevention and Treatment reports Way Path
Those who seek information on the internet have more positive outlook
"We were surprised. In the age of WebMD and 'Dr. Google,' we were concerned about the potential for the Internet to widen gaps in knowledge and behaviors to prevent cancer," said Cornell Assistant Professor of Communication Jeff Niederdeppe, who co-authored the report with Chul-joo Lee, assistant professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Derek Freres, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.
"Some websites contain inaccurate and incomplete information, posted without editorial review, which could add to levels of confusion and a sense that everything causes cancer," Niederdeppe said. "We were also concerned that the ability to jump quickly from one snippet of information to another via links could lead to information overload."
Niederkeppe, Lee, and Feres have, however, found that the interlinked and integrated information can promote learning, rather than stifle it. Within a survey of nearly 2,000 U.S. Adults, all aged between 40 and 70, the researchers found that of those who sought health information, those who did so via the internet were more likely to have a positive outlook on the available preventative cancer treatments.
The effect was strongest for anyone who had low levels of formal education, suggesting that the Internet has a potential to be a powerful tool in reducing inequalities in cancer knowledge and prevention behaviors. It also points to a rather basic concept of a placebo effect, as those who do not know better have a stronger chance of instituting a positive outlook on the matter.
"Reducing cancer fatalism, especially among people with low socioeconomic status, is arguably one of the most important public health goals in the nation," Lee said.
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