Cancer Misinformation On The Rise On Social Media, Huntsman Cancer Institute Study Says

Jul 22, 2021, 7:11 AM | Updated: 7:38 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Many of us turn to the internet for information about our health, but a new Utah study finds misinformation surrounding cancer treatments is growing on social media.

It may be human nature to peruse social media for answers after a cancer diagnosis, but experts say following advice found online without talking to your doctor first can be harmful.

“I call it the murky waters of the internet,” said Dr. Skyler Johnson, an assistant professor in the University of Utah’s School of Medicine and radiation oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Johnson did just that when his wife got cancer during medical school.

Dr. Skyler Johnson and his wife, Laurie Johnson, turned to the internet when she was diagnosed with cancer during med school. He’s now the lead researcher at the Huntsman Cancer Institute on a study that found cancer misinformation is on the rise on social media and can be harmful to patients.

“The first thing we did is hopped online to figure out, ‘What are the treatment options, what’s the prognosis like?'” Johnson said.

Johnson is now the lead researcher at the Huntsman Cancer Institute looking at misinformation online.

“We know that patients who choose to use treatments that don’t have scientific support for them are putting their own health at risk,” he said.

Their study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found many of the most popular cancer articles shared on social media aren’t accurate.

According to researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, 33% of the articles on social media contained misinformation about cancer. Of those, 77% had information that could negatively impact patient outcomes.

Dr. Skyler Johnson and his wife, Laurie Johnson, turned to the internet when she was diagnosed with cancer during med school.

“If it means that you’re refusing conventional cancer treatments, then it decreases your chance of cure and survival,” Johnson said.

Scientists also found misleading articles got the most traction online, especially on Facebook.

That’s why Johnson said it’s critical to talk to your doctor before trying a new treatment.

“It’s all about being able to use social media wisely, and just be a little bit critical about the information you may be seeing online or hearing about from well-meaning family and friends,” he said.

He prescribes a healthy dose of skepticism when reading about cancer on social media.

Next, Johnson and his team will look at how likely people are to recognize false information about cancer on social media when they see it.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01:  U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (2nd R) speaks...
ALAN FRAM and LISA MASCARO, Associated Press

Senate Democrats pass big Biden deal; House to vote next

The Senate has approved the Democrats' big economic package even though the legislation is less ambitious than President Biden’s original goals.
2 days ago
ARLEIGH RODGERS, Associated Press/Report for America

Indiana becomes 1st state to approve abortion ban post Roe

Indiana has become the first state in the nation to pass new legislation restricting access to abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June.
3 days ago
In this July 22, 2019 photo provided by Rodrigo Vargas, a black hawk sits on a tree in Cristalino I...

Brazil will allow state park in biodiverse area to be destroyed

In a move that shocked environmentalists, the state government of Mato Grosso has given up a legal battle to protect a state park located in one of the Brazilian Amazon's most biodiverse areas.
3 days ago
An Aug. 5, 2022 three-car crash claimed one life near the intersection of 4100 South, 4000 West. (J...
Larry D. Curtis

3-car collision in West Valley claims the life of one passenger

One person was killed Friday night in a three-car collision in West Valley City. The victim has not yet been identified.
3 days ago
U.S. is shipping tens of thousands of monkeypox vaccines to 48 states....
Jed Boal

Monkeypox cases increasing in Utah; still very low risk for most Utahns

Monkeypox is now a national public health emergency and Utah is seeing more cases. But epidemiologists stress that this infection is circulating primarily in a specific population.
4 days ago
A vial of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine sits on a table at a pop-up vaccination clinic which opened...

US to declare health emergency over monkeypox outbreak

The U.S. will declare a public health emergency to bolster the federal response to the outbreak of monkeypox that already has infected more than 6,600 Americans.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Cancer Misinformation On The Rise On Social Media, Huntsman Cancer Institute Study Says