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Public health Web sites may not be as useful to men concerned about prostate cancer as educational online presentations about the disease. This recent study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The prostate is a gland of the male reproductive system, which is responsible for producing some of the fluid that transports sperm during ejaculation. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in men. During the past 20 years, overall survival rates for all stages of prostate cancer have improved dramatically.

This study, conducted in the United States, evaluated 611 50-year-old healthy men. Each was assigned to either visit public healthcare Web sites or view online presentations about prostate cancer screening and treatment. Participants completed questionnaires before and after their physical examination to assess their understanding of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, prostate cancer treatment preferences, and concerns regarding the disease itself.

  • The men who watched online presentations scored higher on tests regarding prostate cancer than those who visited public Web sites.
  • Additionally, greater reductions in PSA screenings were seen among the men who viewed the online presentations. Although some doctors support routine PSA testing of healthy men, there appears to be no evidence that earlier screening improves overall survival.
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The researchers found that the online presentations regarding prostate cancer provided more accurate, useful information about prostate cancer screening and treatment than public health-related Web sites. As a result, online presentations were a more effective resource.

Reference: Frosch, D., Bhatnagar, V., Tally, S., et al. Internet patient decision support. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2008 168(4): 363-369.

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