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Quality and Readability of Online Health Information on Common Urologic Cancers: Assessing Barriers to Health Literacy in Urologic Oncology.

INTRODUCTION: A growing number of Americans search online for health information related to urologic oncologic care each year. The American Medical Association recommends that medical information be written at a maximum sixth-grade level in order to be comprehensible by the majority of patients. As such, it is important to assess the quality and readability of online patient education material that patients are being exposed to.

METHODS: A Google search was performed using the terms "testicular cancer," "prostate cancer," "kidney cancer," and "bladder cancer," and the top 30 results for each were reviewed. Websites were categorized based on their source. Readability was assessed using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, the Gunning Frequency of Gobbledygook, and the Simple Measure of Gobbledygook indices. Quality was assessed using the DISCERN Quality Index (1-5 scale).

RESULTS: A total of 91 websites were included in our analysis. On average, online health information pertaining to urologic cancers is written at a 10th- to 11th-grade reading level, which is significantly higher than that of an average American adult and that recommended by the American Medical Association ( P < .01). The overall quality of websites was 3.4 ± 0.7, representing moderate to high quality. There was no significant difference in readability based on cancer type or information source.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite being of moderate to high quality, online patient education materials related to common urologic cancers are often written at a grade level that exceeds the reading level of an average American adult. This presents as a barrier to online health literacy and calls into question the utility of these resources.

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