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Study Looks at Dermatology Information Available on YouTube

According to a recent study published in the Dermatology Online Journal, YouTube reaches over 6 billion people a month and accounts for 18.6% of all downstream Internet activity. In light of the fact that most people heavily rely on the Internet for health care information and advice, researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center decided to explore the presence of dermatology on YouTube. Since the online world is currently strongly influencing personal health, what sort of information are users creating, sharing, and receiving?

During one week in March of this year, the research team measured the presence of dermatology on YouTube by entering the following five terms into YouTube’s search query: dermatology, sun protection, skin cancer, skin cancer awareness, and skin conditions. Researchers examined the data for the first 100 videos that were associated with each search term. In total the first 100 videos had been shared a 101,173 times and had driven 6,325 subscriptions to distinct YouTube user pages. Over 47 million viewers had accessed the dermatology-focused videos and yet only 35% were uploaded by or featured a dermatology professional.

Each video was put into one of six categories: educational, advocacy, advertisement, clinical demonstration by a dermatologist, alternative medicine, and current media/news. The most prevalent content type was “advocacy” at 24% of the total search results. “Educational” was the second most prevalent category at 19%, and “current media” placed third at 13%.

The opportunity to freely upload videos on YouTube allows viewers to have a wide breadth of dermatological information at their fingertips. However, since these videos don’t need to be verified, identifying credentialed sources can prove to be a difficult task. This causes concern for the general public who use YouTube for preventative medicine.

Alarmingly, the researchers noted that when searching “skin cancer,” the most-shared and most subscription-driven video was entitled “Dermatologists Hate This Video! (Natural Skin Cancer Cures),” and it claimed a 100% cure rate for melanoma. The author concludes, “Although the mix of content and availability of educational videos creates a vast resource for providers and the general public, challenges of accessing evidence-based data remain.”

Sources: 1, 2

Image: Esther Vargas

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