Cancer-related nutrition misinformation abounds on Pinterest: study | Health, Medicine and Fitness
TUESDAY, May 10, 2022 (HealthDay News) — About a third of cancer nutrition information on the social media site pinterest is misleading and published by companies trying to sell products, according to a new study.
“Our results revealed a significant amount of misinformation about cancer and nutrition,” said study co-author Tracy Crane, associate professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“There is a pervasiveness of health claims that aren’t necessarily valid or don’t come from reputable sources,” Crane said in a university press release.
Crane and her colleagues searched Pinterest using terms such as “cancer recipe” or “cancer nutrition,” to replicate the types of queries made by cancer patients.
Nearly half of the responses to their searches were for “for-profit” sites. Additionally, many health claims included terms such as anticancer, anticancer, or anticancer.
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Many posts have exaggerated the ability of foods and/or supplements to cure cancer. One even claimed that a “terminal cancer patient reverses the disease with anti-angiogenic foods,” which the authors say is almost certainly untrue.
“About 33% of the times we went on Pinterest, someone tried to sell us something that claimed to be anti-cancer or kill cancer cells,” Crane said. “These health claims may or may not be true. But put yourself in the shoes of a cancer patient. They see buzzwords around these products and may automatically be inclined to buy them.”
The messages targeted both patients and caregivers, and many focused on breast cancer. Only about 18% of the posters mentioned health-related qualifications.
The results of the study were published online recently in the journal Cancer.
“The key takeaway is for patients and providers to be aware that there is a lot of misinformation online, and online misinformation should be part of the conversation between providers and patients,” Crane said.
“Patients want to know everything about their disease, but we need to be mindful of their internet hygiene and guide them to reliable places to find information, like the American Cancer Societythe American Society for Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research“, added Crane.
She said healthcare providers need to identify the best ways to help patients determine if online information is reliable. They may also create documents and other materials to help patients and caregivers find reliable sources.
“We now live in a digital world, and it’s fundamentally changing the way people get their information. Vendors need to be aware of this and respond,” Crane said. “We need to ask more questions about where people get their information and how it might affect their health.”
To learn more about nutrition for cancer patients, visit American Cancer Society.
SOURCE: University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, press release, April 5, 2022