Dissemination of Misinformative and Biased Information about Prostate Cancer on YouTube

Eur Urol. 2019 Apr;75(4):564-567. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2018.10.056. Epub 2018 Nov 28.


YouTube is a social media platform with more than 1 billion users and >600000 videos about prostate cancer. Two small studies examined the quality of prostate cancer videos on YouTube, but did not use validated instruments, examine user interactions, or characterize the spread of misinformation. We performed the largest, most comprehensive examination of prostate cancer information on YouTube to date, including the first 150 videos on screening and treatment. We used the validated DISCERN quality criteria for consumer health information and the Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool, and compared results for user engagement. The videos in our sample had up to 1.3 million views (average 45223) and the overall quality of information was moderate. More videos described benefits (75%) than harms (53%), and only 50% promoted shared decision-making as recommended in current guidelines. Only 54% of the videos defined medical terms and few provided summaries or references. There was a significant negative correlation between scientific quality and viewer engagement (views/month p=0.004; thumbs up/views p=0.015). The comments section underneath some videos contained advertising and peer-to-peer medical advice. A total of 115 videos (77%) contained potentially misinformative and/or biased content within the video or comments section, with a total reach of >6 million viewers. PATIENT SUMMARY: Many popular YouTube videos about prostate cancer contained biased or poor-quality information. A greater number of views and thumbs up on YouTube does not mean that the information is trustworthy.

Keywords: Dissemination; Misinformation; Prostate cancer; Social media; YouTube.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Communication*
  • Consumer Health Information*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Information Seeking Behavior
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Social Media*
  • Trust
  • Video Recording*