Experts warn that TikTok videos offering advice on women’s cancers often contain dangerous amounts of misinformation. According to a study conducted researchers at Ohio State University, the app’s most popular cancer-related content, which often takes the form of first-person testimonials, is mostly misleading or dramatically inaccurate. The study found that at least 73% of the cancer-related content on TikTok is inaccurate and of poor educational quality.
Medical professionals and organizations are alarmed the prevalence of misinformation on TikTok and have taken to the platform themselves to combat it. Dr. Laura Makaroff of the American Cancer Society, for example, posted a clip pushing back on the false narrative that women under 45 saw a major increase in breast cancer between 2022 and 2023. Oncologist Dr. Eleonora Teplinsky also addressed the dangers of believing in phony medical information on TikTok, emphasizing that it can lead to adverse outcomes.
The study conducted Ohio State University focused on the most popular videos related to ovarian, endometrial, cervical, and vulvar cancer, as well as gestational trophoblastic disease. The goal was to identify patient concerns regarding treatment that may go unaddressed during doctor visits. The researchers acknowledged that while doctors focus on treatment toxicities and patient outcomes, patients often face difficult challenges at home.
This isn’t the first time health officials have raised concerns about misinformation on TikTok. In the past, influencers on the platform falsely claimed that tampons were linked to cancer because of titanium dioxide. Similarly, a study conducted the University of Michigan in 2021 highlighted the issue of misinformation on prostate cancer.
In light of the misleading content on TikTok, those seeking reliable medical advice may be better off turning to YouTube. YouTube recently launched an initiative to prevent the spread of fake cancer news removing content that promotes harmful or ineffective cancer treatments or discourages viewers from seeking professional medical treatment.
Source: The New York Post, The Ohio State University Study, The University of Michigan Study