Assessing websites on complementary and alternative medicine for cancer

Ann Oncol. 2004 May;15(5):733-42. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdh174.


Background: Many cancer patients search the World Wide Web for information on complementary and alternative medicine. The aim of this study was to evaluate the quality of such information and identify the treatments most frequently discussed. Materials and methods We used a pre-tested search strategy to identify the websites that are most likely to be used by cancer patients and assessed them according to pre-defined criteria.

Results: Thirty-two websites were included in this analysis. The quality of these sites was scored on a point system and varied between 8 and 14 points with a maximum of 14. Most sites issued recommendations for a plethora of treatments, which are typically not supported by sound scientific evidence. Three sites had the potential for harming patients through the advice issued. The most frequently discussed therapies were herbal medicines, diets and mind-body therapies.

Conclusion: The most popular websites on complementary and alternative medicine for cancer offer information of extremely variable quality. Many endorse unproven therapies and some are outright dangerous.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Diet Therapy
  • Humans
  • Information Services / standards*
  • Internet / standards*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards*
  • Psychophysiology
  • Quality Control