Introduction: From 2012 through 2014, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended biennial mammography for women aged 50 to 75 and recommended against the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test for men of any age, emphasizing informed decision making for patients. Because of time constraints and other patient health priorities, health care providers often do not discuss benefits and risks associated with cancer screening. We analyzed the association between seeking information online about breast and prostate cancer and undergoing mammography and PSA screening.
Methods: We assessed guideline concordance in mammogram and PSA screening, according to USPSTF guidelines for those at average risk for disease. We used data on 4,537 survey respondents from the National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) for 2012 through 2014 to assess online information-seeking, defined as whether people searched for cancer-related information online in the past 12 months. We used HINTS data to construct multivariable logistic regression models to isolate the effect of exposure to online information on the incidence of cancer screening.
Results: After controlling for available covariates, we found no significant association between online information-seeking and guideline-concordant screening for breast or prostate cancer. Significant co-variate values suggest that factors related to access to care were significantly associated with conformance to mammography guidelines for women recommended for screening and that physician discussion was significantly associated with nonconformance to guidelines for prostate-specific antigen screening (ie, having a PSA test in spite of the recommendation not to have it). Decomposition of differences between those who sought online information and those who did not indicated that uncontrolled confounders probably had little effect on findings.
Conclusion: We found little evidence that online information-seeking significantly affected screening for breast or prostate cancer in accordance with USPSTF guidelines among people at average risk.