Online cancer tests "inadequate"
Many online cancer tests fall far short of required medical standards, a researcher at Sweden's Karolinska Institute has warned.
"It is important to enlighten people searching for health information on the net that some sites don't come up to scratch," said Dr Alexandra Ekman.
The growth of internet access has empowered many patients by enabling them to find information and community support that would have previously been out of their reach.
But in addition to these positive effects, many sites offer unreliable self-diagnosis questionnaires that allow users to assess their risk of cancer, however.
Dr Ekman tested a range of these programs in 2001, 2002 and 2005, finding that none of them met the minimum quality standards for medical information laid down by the EU.
"Most sites are American, but all are available worldwide," said Dr Ekman. "The information we found didn't score particularly high on the quality scales we used.
"What's more, there is no international consensus for quality criteria for the control and evaluation of information available online."
She stressed that there were many sites that did offer good advice, and urged patients to talk to their doctors about identifying reliable online sites that could provide support and advice.