Wikipedia and the National Cancer Institute Website Appear to Offer Similar Osteosarcoma Information for Patients

Kate Kelly


A Review of:
Leithner, A., Werner, M., Glehr, M., Friesenbichler, J., Keithner, K., & Windhager R. (2010). Wikipedia and osteosarcoma: A trustworthy patients' information? Journal of the Medical Informatics Association, 17(4), 373-374.

Objective – To compare the completeness and accuracy of information about osteosarcoma in Wikipedia to information found on the patient and health professional versions of the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) website.

Design – Comparative study, test against 20 item questionnaire and expert opinion.

Setting – n/a.

Subjects – n/a.

Methods – The authors developed a 20-item questionnaire to test the completeness and accuracy of information on osteosarcoma in Wikipedia and on the “patient version and the health professional version of the National Cancer Institute’s website as ‘official’ reference websites” (p. 373). Three independent observers, two surgeons specializing in musculoskeletal tumour surgery and a medical student, tested the English language version of Wikipedia and the NCI “websites” on April 3, 2009. Answers to the 20 questions found on the websites were scored from zero to three and were discussed with a member of the “German board for guidelines in musculoskeletal surgery” (p. 373) and verified against international guidelines published by the World Health Organization. Data was analyzed using SPSS and group comparisons were performed using Mann-Whitney U test with p-values of less than 0.05 significance.

Main Results – The quality of information about osteosarcoma found in the English language version of Wikipedia was good but inferior to the patient information from NCI. Out of a total of 60 points Wikipedia scored 33, NCI patient information 40 and NCI professional information 50. There was no significant difference between the NCI patient information and Wikipedia but a significant difference (p=0.039) between Wikipedia and NCI professional information.

Conclusion – Non-peer reviewed websites providing health information, such as Wikipedia, should include links to sites such as NCI and other more definitive sources such as professional and international organizations. Frequent checks should be used to ensure external links are of the highest quality.


wikipedia; website; National Cancer Institute

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