Sun & Skin News

The Dangers of Doctor Google

By Ali Venosa • April 22, 2021
Young woman peering inside laptop screen

When you’re searching for medical information, whether about skin cancer or any condition, follow these steps for credible, helpful advice!

For many of us, the internet is the first place we turn to when we have questions about our health. While the web is a treasure trove of helpful information about diseases and medications, there’s also plenty of questionable and inaccurate info floating around out there. Even facts can be presented in a misleading way, and without a medical professional’s perspective, a lot of the information we find online can be downright scary. (Who among us hasn’t overanalyzed our symptoms on WebMD?) There are a few steps you can take to ensure your time online is educational and productive rather than deceptive or needlessly frightening.

Check Your Source

Knowing where a statistic or claim came from will help you determine its validity. You can feel more confident trusting information from a major news source, peer reviewed scientific journal or a reputable research institution than a friend-of-a-friend’s personal blog, for example. Look for articles that quote experts in the field and back up claims with studies, rather than articles with no references or trustworthy sources. Also, take comments to an article (even ones on a trustworthy site) with a grain of salt. Passionate belief that something worked for one person is not a panacea.

Slow Down on Social

Social media can be a great way to connect with other skin cancer survivors and caretakers. But be wary of claims made in online groups and messaging boards. Personal experiences and opinions presented as fact can be misleading, even when no one intends any harm. The unregulated nature of social media means users can be vulnerable to unsubstantiated claims — there are no editors fact-checking posted content. Follow trustworthy sources (like The Skin Cancer Foundation!) on social media to be sure you’re getting accurate information.

Engage with the Professionals

The internet can connect you with doctors and other medical professionals you might not have had the opportunity to speak with otherwise. You may be able to schedule a telemedicine visit with a specialist across the country or a quick video call with your physician. Even if you aren’t engaging with a doctor one-on-one, many physicians participate in Ask Me Anything chats, Instagram Live videos and other online activities that can help answer your questions. Ask your physician if they have professional social media accounts or participate in any online events.

Featured in The 2021 Skin Cancer Foundation Journal