Still, it's not clear if these methods can sort accurate from inaccurate information, the study authors said.
The researchers looked at 343 breast cancer Web pages found by using five popular search engines, including Google and Yahoo. Each page was evaluated based on 15 quality criteria. The authors then cross-referenced assessments from the 15 criteria with how accurate the pages were.
Overall, there were 41 inaccurate statements on 18 Web pages (5.2 percent), although complementary or alternative medicine pages were 15.6 times more likely to contain false information.
But the quality criteria did not sift the good from the bad Web sites, the researchers said.
"Many of these quality criteria that have been proposed do not allow us to select out inaccurate from accurate Web sites," Meric-Bernstam said.
The Internet can be a useful resource, but relying exclusively on the Web for health information isn't a good idea, the experts said.
"Just because you read something doesn't mean it's right," Brooks said. "I tell my patients, 'You're going to look things up. I can't stop you, but you're paying me to sort through information and give you advice. You're paying for professional expertise.' Knowing something doesn't mean you know how to make it work."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has a guide to searching the Web.
SOURCES: Funda Meric-Bernstam, M.D., associate professor, surgical oncology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; Jay Brooks, M.D., chairman, hematology/oncology, Ochsner Health System, Baton Rouge, La.; March 15, 2008, Cancer
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