The quality and readability of colorectal cancer information on the internet

Int J Surg. 2013;11(5):410-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2013.03.006. Epub 2013 Mar 19.


Introduction: Patients can rapidly access the internet and more young people are using their mobile to access health-related information. The aim of this study is to assess the readability and quality of colorectal disease websites for colorectal cancer.

Methods: We searched the Google, Yahoo and Bing for colorectal cancer. Readability was assessed using Flesch Reading Ease Score (FRES), Flesch-Kincaid Grade (FKG) and Gunning Fog Index (GFI). The LIDA tool and DISCERN instrument were used to measure the design and content of health information on the Internet. A sub-group analysis was performed on websites certified by HONcode and Information Standard against non-certified websites.

Results: The mean FRES were 56.3, mean FKG of 6.9, mean GFI of 9.5, equivalent to TIME magazine. The mean LIDA Tool overall score was 85.6% and mean DISCERN instrument was 52.2 (95% CI 45-59.4).

Conclusion: This study shows that colorectal cancer websites were readable but potentially unreliable. Government certified sites were superior to non-certified sites. Improvements are required to provide patients with reliable information to make informed decisions on medical treatments. We propose that national cancer services develop reliable and easily readable information regarding the diagnosis and investigation of colorectal cancer. The site should provide adequate information regarding the treatment options and importantly how each treatment option would affect the patient's quality of life. Clinicians can then provide these websites to the patients before and after their consultations to allow the patient to be fully informed.

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms*
  • Comprehension*
  • Consumer Health Information / methods
  • Consumer Health Information / standards*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet / standards*
  • Search Engine
  • United Kingdom