Prostate cancer websites difficult for some patients to understand

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Nov. 12, 2012

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Many Internet sites that discuss prostate cancer treatment options use language that is tough for adults to comprehend, said a study published online Oct. 18 in the The Journal of Urology.

The information on 62.9% of such websites is written above a 12th-grade reading level, the study said. Only 4.8% of sites that contain prostate cancer treatment options are written below a 9th-grade level (link).

About 90 million U.S. adults have literacy skills that test at or below high school reading levels, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey. Low literacy can limit shared decision-making and lead patients to misunderstand written health materials, The Journal of Urology study said. To prevent those problems, the National Institutes of Health recommends that physicians use patient education materials written at a 4th-through-6th-grade reading level.

Researchers identified the three most popular keywords related to prostate cancer treatment options: “prostate cancer,” “prostate cancer treatment” and “prostatectomy.” They looked for those words on Google, Yahoo and Bing search engines, and identified 62 unique, English-language websites.

To assess readability, researchers used the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level test, which measures the reading grade level. They conducted the Flesch reading-ease test, which assigned a readability score of 0 to 100 to each website. The higher the score, the easier the text is to understand.

The study encourages health professionals to guide patients who have low literacy to high-quality websites with easy-to-read prostate cancer information.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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