Representation matters to Black patients seeking prostate cancer information online, study shows

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For black men diagnosed with prostate cancer, racial representation is a key factor influencing trust in websites that provide prostate cancer information, reports a study in the March issue. Journal of Urology®, An official journal of the American Urological Association (AUA). The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer in the Lippincott Portfolio.

Our study shows that representation of black patients seeking prostate cancer information online is important. Not only does this affect confidence in the data, but the lack of black representation in prostate cancer content gives the impression that black men are at lower risk of prostate cancer.”

Lead author Stacey Loeb, MD, MSc, PhD (Honorary), New York University Langone Health

In fact, national statistics show that black men have higher rates of prostate cancer than white or Hispanic men. “This lack of representation can have dangerous consequences such as discouraging screening among black men,” Dr. adds Loeb.

‘I don’t see any melanin’: Representations affect trust in patient information

Researchers conducted a series of focus groups with black patients to assess factors influencing the perceived credibility of online sources of prostate cancer information. Most participants said they used the Internet to find information about their diagnosis and treatment.

Patients saw “black representation [as] is an important factor affecting trust in online information,” wrote Dr. Loeb and colleagues. One focus group participant, while viewing a website that depicted only white patients, commented, “Yeah, I don’t see any melanin…right here.” They will lose me.”

Also noted is the lack of blackface among professionals portrayed in health care organizations and advocacy groups. As one patient commented, “Whenever I don’t see an African American doctor represented in a study, it kind of turns me off.” Not seeing images of black people on online sites led some patients to give up searching for information.

Findings indicate recommendations for online prostate cancer information

Other factors also influence patients’ trust in online information sources. All participants mentioned choosing reputable sources of content such as leading healthcare institutions and national organizations. The AUA’s Urology Care Foundation provides expert information on prostate cancer along with other urologic conditions.

Preferred websites with a “general professional look,” “unprofessional, untidy, [or] Too flashy.” They also distrusted sources with any apparent financial conflict — especially those selling alternative or herbal therapies. Even for large nonprofits, patients were wary of sites with fundraising or donation buttons.

“Underrepresentation of black adults in prostate cancer content has the potential to worsen prostate cancer health disparities,” Dr. Loeb and colleagues concluded. “The best online communications should include ethnically diverse representation, and evidence-based information in a professional format from reputable sources without financial conflicts.”


Journal Reference:

Loeb, S., etc (2024) Representation matters: trust in digital health information among black patients with prostate cancer. Journal of Urology.

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