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Wikipedia Accurate on Cancer Facts, But Hard to Read: Study
Date:9/15/2011

THURSDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The facts about cancer found on the website Wikipedia are about as accurate as the information on the disease found on the patient-oriented section of the U.S. National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ), a comprehensive peer-reviewed cancer database, according to a new study.

Although experts from Thomas Jefferson University were hard-pressed to find errors on Wikipedia, they did find the content on the site was harder to read and included links to more dense information than the simplified, shorter explanations found on PDQ.

"There are a vast number of websites where patients can obtain cancer information," study leader Dr. Yaacov Lawrence, adjunct assistant professor of radiation oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, and director of the Center for Translational Research in Radiation Oncology at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, said in a university news release.

"The purpose of this study was to answer one question: Is the cancer information on Wikipedia correct? Reassuringly, we found that errors were extremely rare on Wikipedia. But the way information was presented on PDQ is more patient-friendly," Lawrence said.

Wikipedia is commonly not considered a trustworthy source of information since the writers -- whether amateur journalists or medical specialists -- develop the content found on the site without professional oversight. Nevertheless, the study found the site ranked among the top 10 results for more search engines, higher than the PDQ and professionally maintained government websites. The study authors also pointed out that Wikipedia updates more quickly.

In conducting the study, researchers chose 10 types of cancer and compared the information on the diseases' epidemiology, etiology, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and controversial topics in cancer care found on Wikipedia with the information found on PDQ. The co
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