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Health On the Net Foundation HONinfo Newsletter (2004/08/25)

In this issue...

Poor Quality Websites on CAM dangerous for cancer patients
A study published in the Annals of Oncology has concluded that nearly 50% of the 32 most popular web sites on CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) for cancer are not good quality. The study was conducted by experts in complementary medicine from the universities of Exeter and Plymouth, under the direction of Professor Edzard Ernst.

"The cancer cures discussed on these websites are not supported by good scientific evidence," according to the study. Even worse, three websites are qualified as "outright dangerous". These three sites had applied, but were rejected, by Health On the Net Foundation for HONcode accreditation.

On the positive side, "four web sites stand out" from the rest for the exemplary quality of their information and treatments: quackwatch.org, ebandolier.com, cis.nci.nih.gov and rosenthal.hs.columbia.edu. The full list of Web sites evaluated is provided in the study . Three sites, quackwatch.org, cis.nci.nih.gov and rosenthal.hs.columbia.edu/, are HONcode accredited by the Health On the Net Foundation.

As an action plan, the study concludes that "cancer organisations and other impartial interest groups should investigate websites and create and administer a ‘seal of approval’, for safety and reliability, such as the HONcode".

Today, HON counts nearly 4,000 accredited Web sites in some 72 countries worldwide which bear the HONcode seal. "With this expertise and notoriety, associated with major cancer organisations, HON can today implement such an action plan in order to protect and guide the citizen to safer and better quality online information," commented Professor Antoine Geissbühler, President of HON Foundation and Director of the Service of Medical Informatics of the Geneva University Hospitals.

Similar codes exist, but the HONcode is the most widely displayed and the oldest, existing since 1995. The HONcode requires that information providers disclose potential conflicts of interest, provide credentials for authors relaying medical information, and link or otherwise reference the source of medical facts listed on the Web site.

This fundamental study should raise patients’ awareness on the variability of the quality of web sites on CAM for specific diseases.

HON figures
HON counts today nearly 4'000 Web sites accredited HONcode in 72 countries. This list is searchable by full text terms or URL.

In July 2004 HON received visits of 3 millions of persons from 80 countries. They read one web page per second.

Research activities
HON is present at MedInfo 2004, triennial international meeting for the medical informatics community, 7-11 Sep. 2004 (http://www.medinfo2004.org/). The scientific paper relating to the research work on trustworthy information retrieval conducted in the WRAPIN European project has been selected for MedInfo 2004 Student Paper Competition amongst a hundred articles.

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