Wikipedia approved for cancer
Thursday 03 June 2010
If you are an online health info junkie or cyberchondriac, you can rest assured that Wikipedia works. Researchers are to present their findings at the 2010 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting on June 7 in Chicago, 1-5pm.
It is a natural first click to Wikipedia when looking to check out something unknown, and it is equally normal to doublecheck the source just to make sure the info is accurate.
US-based researchers from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania set out with the goal "to compare the coverage, accuracy, and readability of cancer information from a Wiki (Wikipedia) with a peer-reviewed web site, the patient-oriented National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ) comprehensive cancer database."
To their surprise, "the Wiki resource had similar accuracy and depth to the professionally edited database, it was significantly less readable. Further research is required to assess how this influences patients' understanding and retention."
"Less readable" noted one of the study's authors, Yaacov Lawrence, MD and assistant professor of radiation oncology at Jefferson Medical College, because the Wikipedia entry was written at a higher reading level (college reading level) than the PDQ (15-year old reading level).
The good news is that Wikipedia rarely had any errors but the open-editing system proves that those in need of cancer information will click on to other sites.
Lawrence added, "overall our results are reassuring: on the one hand Wikipedia appears to be extremely accurate, on the other, the resources invested in the creation and upkeep of the PDQ are clearly justified."
Poster abstract, "Accuracy of cancer information on the Internet: A comparison of a Wiki with a professionally maintained database": http://abstract.asco.org/AbstView_74_41625.html
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